"Return to Philology"

It can be a struggle to define or claim the "tradition" one belongs to as the PhD candidate of today - to eschew the "movement." In my case, The Advisor once magnanimously declared that I "successfully combine old and new." Or something like that. And in this case, the Theory is to appease him, something I loved in the grad-level courses I took as an undergrad (when I dreamed of designing a thousand plateaus activity book) but which I later found left me unprepared to teach undergraduate writing courses and left me wanting in more ways than one. Then, I was further disappointed by the trendy composition readers I got. The "essay types" referred to in those books are just a tragic simplification of what one learns in rhetoric, to which I began to direct all my free time and which caused me to reassess the skill set I had at my disposal for a constructive understanding of the written world. My next problem was finding that the thought of Victorian polymaths could not be 'translated' into modern jargon and that adequate terms were extant in what I would (today: I keep learning) call an intersection between hermeneutics, literary criticism, and philology.
By that I mean the attempt to read a text with sensitivity, by seeking to understand the words and their cultural referents. While this might not mean consideration of ancient languages, there must be consideration of ancient languages if one is to consider the works of educated Victorians. Even in the novels, there is a seeping in of the Greek and Latin: directly in terms of quotations and indirectly in terms of reference to ideas taken from antiquity. I consider that to profess to study those novels, pamphlets, magazines, lectures, etc., one ought first to try to understand the text without interposing opinion, having first prepared some background knowledge of context. This is only loosely philological. It can include an attempt to recognise any references - whether these have in turn remained in context or not, which is like the wayward bastard cousin of critical apparatus. Not always legitimate because there is not a direct lineage of text but of thought. Yet part of the family when, say, it is possible to recognise a Horatian turn of phrase. It can be rewarding to discover a presently lesser-known author or work that has been referenced: one is to try to learn what was read and published at the time, the obscure notices and so on. The border of such literary criticism blurs where it approaches culture and history, and when meaning is addressed, philosophy.
This post was inspired by a series of Language Log posts on, What would a 'return to philology' be a return to? (parts 2 and 3). It should be noted that the phrase comes from a work by de Man I first read about in an LARB article. It occurred to me that even where there are philology departments, philology is being practiced only in parts. Language Log commenter Rod Johnson (3) observes the trend in continental philosophy to consider the Greek roots of philosophical terms, de rigeur since Heidegger. I'd add this is also a trend in continental literary studies - sometimes otherwise barely philological. This is the only fragment of the larger umbrella of classical studies to survive in some institutions. It is strange. Our words are littered with ruins.




To return to my personal conundrum, I regret not having a background in classical studies because of the receptiveness to references I mentioned above. To digress on variations on the classical theme, I think there was cognitive significance in the trivium preceding the quadrivium: out of the combination of grammar, rhetoric, and logic comes all else. Logic is often the mathematics of language: this clearer view of argument is less effectively explained by more words about words.
As one of those undergrads to be schooled halfway between anthropology and literature, however, I was taught to remember other cultures (of personal significance) and techniques of getting to know you, getting to like you (joke at personal expense). In all seriousness, it might have been that exposure that makes me try to find a way to, at least in passing, build a bridge between some contemporary theory to the place where the voices I wish to interpret may be found.
This is facilitated in instances where thinkers arguably cross over on their own, like Paul de Man in "The Return to Philology" and Barthes in The Preparation of the Novel. I speak of bridges because there are so many schools and factions of thought today, so many differences between departments that deal with language, reflected in their disparate appellations. What is more, not all professed scholars have a consistently singular background: can we speak of "pedigree" if departments have been "crossed"? I question my own certification and appeal to the Muses where I lack a living mentor. Judge as you will.
I do think the idea of a return holds its merits, especially for university-educated students with diplomas who were not taught parsing or reading comprehension skills. The "return to" is not reactionary but a realisation that one has strayed from something essential. As for "philology," I agree that the need for it becomes far clearer when reading a Victorian novel like The Caxtons or studying a work in a foreign language. But one wonders at the implications of declaring dead languages dead - in part killing philology and classical studies (in comparison to what they were). I shall close with reference to that beautiful passage by Fraenkel on "the real meaning of scholarship" which illustrates the Homeric, earth-swallowing pang of learning that there exists the authoritative translation. In Truth and Method, Gadamer explains that the "essence of the authority" is a prejudice that rests on "good reasons" with claims not "irrational and arbitrary, but can ... be discovered to be true." Authority is earned - frequently by those who have benefited from the right teachers. Though there are trends that lead away from the authority of persons or traditions, we are always being addressed by the great achievements achieved by them in human sciences, deemed by Gadamer to almost never become outdated. It would be a pity not to hear or understand them.




Some Frames for Mind Furniture

Could it be that we are mere vessels, mere "pottery works" as Anatole France writes (via) we are, claiming that life doesn't look anything like an "examination-room". Our answer may depend on whether meaning is seen to extend beyond the life, say as the large and small lives overflow into the splash or sober impact of Martial's ep/odes, hand-copied, press printed, pixelled, reaching us across space and time. On whether it is worth the effort to work on merit, to frame a life in words, to say nothing of the memory, heart.
The words are often those of interpretation, how to read the life, beyond the dictates of genre or mores of the day, what we choose to leave in and out, focus on. Where there is focus, there is decision, and there is learning, via the informed response - and we are back to the exam room. Confucius spoke of the importance of "unfolding the aim" of admonition in a way that is reminiscent of the Stoic emphasis on learning how to make intelligent use of appearances (φαντασία). Possibly comparable to the almost desperate virtue depicted in Thomas Hardy's novels, Confucius says: "Learn as if you could not reach your object, and were always fearing also lest you should lose it." In this world, if we are dealing with the potsherds of discarded lives described by Anatole, there will be at least one archaeologist on hand to study it.
But Anatole's sentiment will not be so soon conciliated; he mentions the mystery of pain which he describes not in those words but in the illustration of the child that dies at birth. And who better to consult about pain than Hardy who has chosen it for his focus; "reminding us is that poor human beings had never asked for  life on any terms, much less on such terms as have been  forced upon them ... The gods are unjust, and we are equally scourged for those virtues which we have  striven to preserve through such difficulty and such pain", writes Herbert L. Stewart in "Thomas Hardy as a Teacher".
I am sure I have written before how I was introduced to Hardy at 13 when alone in boarding school sick bay and the reverend headmaster brought up to me Hardy's Mayor. The headmaster introduced the book as one dearest to him; the headmaster being no ordinary man but one I consider of rather deep faith, who taught us that the menacing is but a projection on a screen, not threatening the nature of things. It is in this way that I came to associate Hardy's books not with the pessimism most people see in them but with a hope we will be shaken from our mechanical dream. Tonight, I read my first ever criticism of Hardy, and find I am not alone in my reading, shared also by Stewart.




In Hardy's novels, "an all too natural sequence of events has led an innocent victim to unredeemed and unredeemable misfortune" writes Stewart. Yet we are pushed to consider, "What is likely to happen to the  most ardent moral convictions, when they are understood as  by-products of a morally indifferent world-machine?" This is what we come to if we are not reading "superficially" because for Hardy, "justice must be done though the  heavens fall" and the characters unredeemed. It is the Melian dialogue all over again. The Stoic purple thread: the high price that brings exemplary beauty to the rest (viz. Epictetus' Discourses 2). "The  things we do for the best turn out to have been for the worst," Stewart writes of Hardy's novels - but Jude remains, not obscure but a paragon of loyalty, of the attempt, of all the other dreams that have gone unrecorded, obscured by the invisibility of class, timing, or whatever else.
"The riddle for all those who at present make so  much of the mystery of pain lies just here, that only for those who take what is essentially a religious view of the world is  that mystery acute, so that those whom it troubles most are  bearing unconscious witness to the faith which they cannot  accept" Stewart writes - of the categorical types of criticism to have emerged in the modern West or since antiquity if I understood the premise of Epictetus' "Against the Academics".
There is learning and there is learning, one might say glibly. The impersonal, illusory Encyclopédie vs. the εὔρεσις of dialectics and the world map of  τόποι. In the Analects, we read: "'Ts'ze, you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many things and keeps them in memory?' Tsze-kung replied, 'Yes, but perhaps it is not so?' 'No,' was the answer; 'I seek a unity all-pervading.'" This approaches the flow of Taoism, and one wonders whether it nears, too, the τὸ εὔρουν or εὔροια that George Long defines as "flowing easily" though it is translated as "happiness". According to this learning, one is to seek the ideal called truth ("anxious to see clearly" as problematic as it is, particularly in deed, as all these texts concur; Confucius himself claims he is deficient in this respect). In the Analects, it is written that man is not to be bound to partisanship but truth: Man is not a utensil. 君子不器. He is not a vessel, though maybe an argument could be made in a deeply figurative sense that so long as he feels his cracks (or is wary of "becloudings"), his metaphorical mind can share in the "unity all-pervading".




There are cracks. There are faults. It can be so heavy sometimes that perhaps one would like to think in terms of vessels not of men. That would certainly shrug off the unasked for responsibility of being alive, which, just like in the school room, has its rewards and gifts for the diligent student. Here we are, we can be plain or purple. As for all the faults, like Seneca's, for example, whose letters I have yet to tire of returning to, observed of as inconsistent with his school's teachings: does this make his writings on the whole less helpful? Or perhaps we are faced with a Hardyan example of being pushed to think morally.
There is much to be said about what to say and what to keep silent on or let drop from focus - like those cracks and faults, for example. One learns the hard way to stop zooming in on one's shortcomings: exaggeration is not a virtue. Toelken writes of Native American tribes who do not name directly the hibernating, furred animal lest it be in that way summoned, a powerful observation on the power of thought. In some countries it is taboo to name obvious problems, most inhabitants having learned to hide that ugly painfulness behind a mask of humourous evasion (those not having learned being pitied or ridiculed if despondently). Confucius writes of fathers and sons concealing each other's misconduct (let us remember though that he also writes of the rectification of names, thereby such concealment applies to fathers and sons who act such, respectfully) and also notes, "The reason the ancients did not readily give utterance to their words was that they feared lest their actions should not come up to them". How much needs to be said, seen and what, to what end?
In an April letter to Lucceius, Cicero writes, "And so I again and again ask you outright, both to praise those actions of mine in warmer terms than you perhaps feel, and in that respect to neglect the laws of history." We can frame lives, weave them in our looms. This is also a source of great confusion not to mention partisanship. Some thinkers extend beyond their school, if in a few threads of  "parallel sensitivities" which do not seek to reduce the original context.
"'Why must one be so severe? If a man purify himself to wait upon me, I receive him so purified, without guaranteeing his past conduct.' The Master said, 'Is virtue a thing remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! virtue is at hand'", 述而.



Test

Life can pass by in thought, which is as good as a dream unless it is tested. There may be two schools in life, one for the intellect and the other for the heart: the duality seen in some definitions of θύμος and in which stands for both heart and mind. Without skulls in dreams or misfortune would one remember the aspect of self connected to feeling that may itself grow as the mind can be said to flower?
While it is possible for there to be an intellectual who is also a "good person" and therefore passing the test of humanity there are also other roads to this same goal. One may think of the "elder", for example, who may not even be intellectually schooled but whose sensitivity to θύμος and character brings an abundance of gifts that may be shared with others (one asks whether that is not also the purpose of the intellect: to share the wealth). A description of this receptive soul can be found in the film Остров, in which the protagonist is described as, "an exposed nerve, which connects to the pains of this world. His absolute power is a reaction to the pain of those people who come to it". To speak of pain is to speak of the domain of the heart more than the mind, and the relevance of the other school may become clearer in this wounded context.
Except the intellect can also learn about sadness. It can store quotations and learn entire bodies of information on the subject. The problem is whether the information produced on a given occasion is what the doctor would call for or just a gesture of formality: idea matching, in form, the category of experience. The description of Socrates' philosophical beginnings highlights this very problem of form, or appearance, not matching up to essence. 
In Plato's Apology, he is said to have tested out the oracle according to which no one was wiser than he. But I think it is important to add that he was not testing out of disrespect or disbelief, rather, it is known that the oracle both reveals as much as it hides, so the spirit behind this testing is rather particular. "'For when I heard this, I thought to myself: “What in the world does the god mean, and what riddle is he propounding? For I am conscious that I am not wise either much or little. What then does he mean by declaring that I am the wisest? He certainly cannot be lying, for that is not possible for him.'” (21b)





He claims, firstly, that he does not understand his wisdom (20e), and proceeds to examine a man reputed to be wise only to find he was not so wise, concluding to himself: "'neither of us really knows anything fine and good, but this man thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either'" (21d). 
Socrates continues, "So I had to go, investigating the meaning of the oracle, to all those who were reputed to know anything ... those who had the most reputation seemed to me to be almost the most deficient, as I investigated at the god's behest, and others who were of less repute seemed to be superior men in the matter of being sensible." (21e -22a) We know the dialogues that ensued - with poets, public men, and so on - and those dialogues demonstrate how it is that things are not to be taken for granted. 
I equate that latter point with Aristotle's views on phronesis in his Ethics. Like Socrates he claims he does not even know if he possesses phronesis, and explains the difficulties inherent to applying an idea to changing circumstance.
It may be that I am writing now about not being dogmatic. But like the spirit of Socrates' inquiries, to be wary of dogma does not necessarily mean that one, categorically, does not respect it where it stands for ideals and perfection. It is the intellect that tends towards the dogmatic, it is the intellect that may be said to reach it before the man does in practice; man's poorer side, the emotions, certainly does not tend towards the systematic. The school of intellectual thought can lead to a cement grave where ideas stop moving. There, the skull does not speak. 
It can be hard and tiring to engage with each new situation, particularly when the situation does not correspond to the wishes of the ego. But this "exposed nerve" has much to teach those who are willing to be students. Testing shows, as Socrates demonstrated, that not all ideas that look intelligent or wise are indeed so. But Socrates explained about his enemies: "there I became hateful both to him and to many others". The second school is not for the weak of heart. 
"'They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it,'" says Confucius in the Analects, Ch. XVIII.





Magazine. Brush. Reference to Socrates and butterflies here.

Skull in a Dream

When the work I had invested years of my life in was declared to have been put into administrative purgatory after having effectively been there earlier, a friend of mine kept saying that there is no such thing as degrees or status after death. I found this comment a little bit grating because as I had entrusted in those years of work I had hoped to be given the "credentia" of the credential. I was also curious, though, about my friend's concept of death because apparently I have a notion that death is earned through one's labour; a form of tithe.
I cannot speak for other people but because I grew up with the Chinese classics before the Western ones, when I realise I have questions I rush to those books for some kind of orientation. Even if that impulse is not shared (I do not wish to promote a postured universalism) I am sure I am not alone in using some texts for divination, which may in fact describe reading with the heart and not the mind.
Behold what I found on death and honours in Zhuangzi 至樂 4:
"At midnight the skull appeared to him in a dream, and said, 'What you said to me was after the fashion of an orator. All your words were about the entanglements of men in their lifetime. There are none of those things after death. Would you like to hear me, Sir, tell you about death?' 'I should,' said Zhuangzi, and the skull resumed: 'In death there are not (the distinctions of) ruler above and minister below. There are none of the phenomena of the four seasons. Tranquil and at ease, our years are those of heaven and earth. No king in his court has greater enjoyment than we have.' Zhuangzi did not believe it, and said, 'If I could get the Ruler of our Destiny to restore your body to life with its bones and flesh and skin, and to give you back your father and mother, your wife and children, and all your village acquaintances, would you wish me to do so?' The skull stared fixedly at him, knitted its brows, and said, 'How should I cast away the enjoyment of my royal court, and undertake again the toils of life among mankind?'"
In  徐無鬼 4 we are given a list of people in different professions, each doing what he is skilled at but all sad when things do not go their way. This may be contrasted with the definition of complete enjoyment in 繕性 3, which Zhuangzi also calls the "attainmnet of the aim". The aim, however, is no fancy thing, which only affect the body and not its nature, being temporary, coming and going. One is not to be motivated by the wish to pursue things and one's wish to avoid distress is not to be the cause of one's learning. Both pursuits, however, may be enjoyable if one sees them as ways of freeing oneself from anxiety. "If now the departure of what is transient takes away one's enjoyment, this view shows that what enjoyment it had given was worthless. Hence it is said, 'They who lose themselves in their pursuit of things, and lose their nature in their study of what is vulgar, must be pronounced people who turn things upside down.'"




I see the skull that appeared in the dream. It said the work is only real if it is seen as a release from anxiety. The credential is akin to the transient thing that comes and goes.
This idea is contrary to the resume culture, which I have been thinking about a lot recently - thinking without any action. Is pressure regarding credentials also a class issue? But what about circumstance: Thomas Hardy's Jude is testament to how the able but misplaced soul may fail to thrive.
"Mencius said, 'A man's advancement is effected, it may be, by others, and the stopping him is, it may be, from the efforts of others. But to advance a man or to stop his advance is really beyond the power of other men. My not finding in the prince of Lu a ruler who would confide in me, and put my counsels into practice, is from Heaven." (梁惠王下 23).
But Heaven, 下, can be an ambiguous character, highlighting the paradoxes and inconsistencies in life and literature. As I get older I find that I crave such puns that stimulate the moral imagination. Laws may be perfect but man is not - which interferes with how the law is to be 'interpreted' to man, Aristotle teaches, which is not to say that Aristotle is a moral relativist or does not maintain ideals, laws. The play around meaning, and in verbal ambiguity, can be heuristic.
下 can mean nature but it can also mean social forces, and in a context like the one above it may signal the random counterforce to the normative, which I take to mean Heaven only if this is the moment one uses the provocative 下 to inspire the 下 of order, thereby "freeing oneself of anxiety". The word 下 is used because we are to be pushed to it: the negative is hiding the positive, vice versa, or both are hidden together in the pun. We are being pushed towards a positive value because Mencius elsewhere gives us the answer to when circumstance does not go our way.
"Mencius replied, 'Honour virtue and delight in righteousness, and so you may always be perfectly satisfied. Therefore, a scholar, though poor [ - exhausted all resources], does not let go his righteousness; though prosperous [達 - having attained sth], he does not leave his own path. Poor and not letting righteousness go - it is thus that the scholar holds possession of himself. Prosperous and not leaving the proper path - it is thus that the expectations of the people from him are not disappointed. When the men of antiquity realized their wishes, benefits were conferred by them on the people. If they did not realize their wishes, they cultivated their personal character, and became illustrious in the world. If poor, they attended to their own virtue in solitude; if advanced to dignity, they made the whole kingdom virtuous as well.'" 盡心上 46.
In other words, one is to make the best out of what one has, whatever it is. I wrote a letter to my father this morning, musing that no matter how prudent one thought one was in their decision making as a youth, it is not possible to keep off the moment of doubt, 下 is not in one's control, yet it is not an excuse to go around sulking. Maybe the point is not in what we achieve but in character building, in making something from what we have even if it sometimes isn't much - maybe just a skull in a dream... that shows us how to paint by number the fruits of bounty.



Something Named. An Imitation

When I was younger, I experimented in the extreme of expecting much of names, like love and goodness, which I invested with ideal meaning until I began to see (does one ever finish seeing this) how steeply the ideal drops off from word into practice. Among those around me, I can see other illustrations of word-investment: some are vociferously atheist while others are ultra religious and often there is a need for these various factions to make their ideals into unwitting darts targeting those who do not subscribe to their same verbal understanding. As I had tried taking a fixed view of some words myself, any criticism here is of myself: for thinking that one can have the names for things. I do not think we own those names.
Today, I would explain our relationship to knowing things as Taoist: intuited when not controlled. I ask myself at this time: do you want meaning, or do you want to attain the illusion of control?
To be the guest-friend may also mean to be released from strict social norms: the name of the guest is not revealed after the first meal, but then, this is not any guest but one who was led in to the palace by a goddess and one who has waited for signs that he is among friends before he reveals his name. For it is posited that he learned the hard way (viz. Susan B. Levin's reading of the Polyphemus encounter) not to reveal his name lest it be used as a means to curse him. This is a very different social approach than the LinkedIn here is my life laid out for your scrutinising pleasure (I feel too embarrassed to look at my friends' profiles: if it's important, they will email me is my view - I further wonder at the difference between being present on such a platform and actually using it and how much illusion is trapped in the naming of what we do).
From Odysseus we see there may be vital reasons as to why the name may be willfully obscured. In this way, there is something to be learned from the geomancer, wherein the time when something appears is as important as the thing itself. It may be a contemporary Western conceit that the name can be pinned into a box like a butterfly. The great natural historian Agassiz wrote, after all, that there is a superiority in perceiving the similarities among facts over finding the fact.
And these names are flying around: it is the same metaphor we see in the Theaetetus (197 on), which concedes that in that context: at that time, and with those words, the attempt to figure out knowledge was "wind-eggs". Yet we are left, from that dialogue, with the ideas that intertwining ideas (202b) and noting their differences ("assign things to the right imprints" 195a - crucial for there to be recognition 193c) are exercises of particular importance in naming, that the combination assists the approach to the winged things we seek to name and know.




The dialogue also leaves us with the sense of the malleability and fallibility of that which we think we know. My favourite passage illustrating this begins in 201a: "you have a whole profession which declares that true opinion is not knowledge ... The profession of those who are greatest in wisdom, who are called orators and lawyers; for they persuade men by the art which they possess, not teaching them, but making them have whatever opinion they like. Or do you think there are any teachers so clever as to be able ... satisfactorily to teach the judges the truth about what happened to people who have been robbed of their money ... when there were no eyewitnesses?"
As a true pedagogue, Socrates puts a lot of direct and indirect emphasis on one's own assimilation of the subject matter at hand. It is said, possibly sarcastically, to be advantageous for the person seeking to assimilate to have a soul like wax - not like stone, not infected by earth; wax being κηρός, a word similar to that of heart, κέαρ or κῆρ (fn). But the sarcasm is surely limited to the dilettantism of resting the mind on literary references: for established in this part of the dialgoue is the importance of being able to recognise - to match imprints. It also corresponds to truth being compared to smoothness, and falsity to roughness, in the always-moving speech represented by Pan (Crat. 408c). It is noted that this speech brings as much truth as falsehood, and that falsehood is not only rough but conducive to the tragic life.
Comparison, more apparent to the smooth, may help ascertain the elements beneath it or at least circumvent them in a way - for the essential nature of a thing is not always imitated by letters and syllables (Crat. 423e) the very possibility of which may sound ridiculous though worth considering (Crat. 425d).
We can't understand everything, but which birds are ours? They may or may not be in a name because ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμϐαίνουσιν, ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ - which appears in Socrates' other discussion of knowledge and naming in the Cratylus (402a and 401c). This section brings this post full circle because it is connected to the names that men give to gods: different names- yet illustrative of the same principles, providing one looks for that imprint, in the first instance of water (402b on). In the dialogue Socrates explains the ideas behind the names of the gods - a favourite passage of 19th century German philologists. There are instances, after all, where names correspond to their elements (422a).





As man turns around and around to capture the nature of things, he gains the illusion that things are moving which is implied in words like wisdom itself, implying a motion, the generation of contemplation, comparable to the soul, named νόησις (411b also 463e). Intelligence may be a "reckoning together" - which again is more of a being with than a having, particularly since that which is never in the same state can hardly be anything (439 e).
The moral of the story is that "no man of sense" ought "put himself and his soul under the control of names" (440c). In other words, we are not to take the names for granted (belief, atheism, justice, injustice) but to think them through. We might discover some underlying elements that may lead to difference becoming the same. For example, how unjust is injustice done to a man who has been in his life unjust? I am presently rather fascinated by this idea.
Finally, particularly in Cratylus 429-30, Socrates says that some painters are better than others and that as a name is an imitation just as a picture is, some names are better than others. I couldn't help draw a parallel between that bit in Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies (lecture three) where he writes about how irresolute people are to say to those who are not such good painters "though you had fine motives, strong enough to make you burn yourself in a slow fire, if only first you could paint a picture, you can't paint one" yet ought to champion with that much more decisiveness those with talent to make something of said talent. Instead, both artists and audience, instead of being encouraged to align wisdom and rightness to an understanding of the ends of life, are "all plunged as in a languid dream - our heart fat, and our eyes heavy, and our ears closed, lest the inspiration of hand or voice should reach us - lest we should see with our eyes, and understand with our hearts". 
True to Socrates' distrust of words, he says, "art must not be talked about. The fact that there is talk about it at all, signifies that it is ill done, or cannot be done ... The moment a man can really do his work ... All words become idle to him - all theories." One cannot be carried up an Alp by talking, he says, but one may be guided up it, step by step. He contrasts the shapeshifting interests, like pride and lust, to beauty as an ideal that is beyond movement (as does Socrates). 
I think that the better word portrait is one that inspires the person to be more charitable to others, more aware of self, more loving of life with syllables and smaller elements like wild birds and winged things.



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