Philosophical Stargazing

In Epictetus' Discourses, the pride of the "young man come out of the schools" is that he face circumstance with courage and treat his emotions and passions with caution. Instead, however, "we turn what should be courage into rashness, desperation, recklessness, effrontery; and what should be caution becomes timid, base, and full of fears and perturbations." In a controversial take on education, he writes, "we are not to give credit to the many, who say that none ought to be educated but the free; but rather to the philosophers, who say that the wise alone are free." In other words, the benefit of schooling is not lavished on the wealthiest Oxbridge Ivy League student so much as it is on the student who seeks wisdom. For true freedom is not in "fear, or sorrow, or perturbation" but delivery from such, "by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery." Are our maters still liberales?
Victorian classicist Ernest Myers writes in his preface to Pindar that Greek poetry offers the reader more than just literary interest: it teaches morals. He argues that the human mind should be most interesting to the human mind, which should thus desire, "knowledge of the most vigorous and sensitive and in some ways also the most fruitful action of human minds that the world has known hitherto". He makes this claim parallel with acknowledging the rise of interest in physical science, rivaling for a place in education.
To look at an ancient work we describe today as addressing physical science like the Timaeus, there, too, we are confronted with notions of good and evil, the world having been created by a good divine craftsman according to a paradigm. Thence too this idea of mimesis (the "model's Copy" 49a). There was a notion that the stars represented, through mimesis, the proportions constituting heavenly order. Thus young Anachronism muses in The Caxtons of the night sky: "Things seem to approximate to God in proportion to their vitality and movement." And just like that, one may imagine the poetic title of the lost work by Eudoxus on astronomy, called Mirror. Per aspera ad astra. What can this mean without the above context, if not antiquated frippery.
Aristotle observed long before us that, "Since men doing or experiencing something are the objects of representation, these must necessarily be either good men or inferior—thus only are characters normally distinguished, since ethical differences depend upon vice and virtue—that is to say either better than ourselves or worse or much what we are." (Poet. 1448a) To defer or to fragment discussion of the moral aspect that constellates his actions as in the modern novel may bind, not free, him. Still, Aristotle argues that the young man is unfit for Moral Science (Nic. Eth. 1095a) guiding his actions according to feelings, not principle. Experience of life and conduct are needed - if but for man to begin to read the connection between ideas and actions. By removing morals from the revolutions of the stars, human movement may run less like a Rolex and more like a brute.




There is a beautiful description of the folly impulse of youth in one of Bacchylides' odes (XVI) and the ensuing entreaty that grievous action be deferred for as long as possible, for the scales of fate will be tipped as it is, in due time: ὅ τι μὲν ἐκ θεῶν μοῖρα παγκρατὴς ἄμμι κατένευσε καὶ Δίκας ῥέπει τάλαντον πεπρωμέναν αἶσαν ἐκπλήσομεν, ὅταν ἔλθῃ· oὺ δὲ βαρεῖαν κάτεχε μῆτιν; "Whatever the resistless doom given by the gods has decreed for us, and the scale of justice inclines to ordain, that appointed fate we will fulfill when it comes." But the daring transgressor provokes further through a dare - and the youths are saved from themselves through the mercy of their parents, (and a beautiful scene with "dolphins, dwellers of the sea" and maidens with fillets and gold adorning their hair "delighting their hearts by dancing with lissom feet"): "Nothing that the gods may ordain is past belief to men of a sound mind."
Δίκας ῥέπει τάλαντον is such a beautiful phrase. I know it is said Bacchylides is no Pindar, but I am far from understanding such things at this time. Those three words put together are so potent: δίκη meaning custom, order, judgment, therefrom justice (it is the goddess Δίκη who traditionally holds the scales); ῥέπω, incline, always shifting, prevail, happen in a certain way; τᾰλαντον, balance, (of) weight, (of) money, and the root of the Biblical "talent." Indeed, as per the ῥέπω we may think of those scales as always shifting.
In the context of that line, it is implied - as Epictetus writes - that there is circumstance that can be controlled by man; some that he cannot, but need not fear, just forbear. "Do you rather contemplate death, change, torture, exile; and all these with courage, and reliance upon Him who hath called you to them, and judged you worthy a post in which you may show what reason can do when it encounters the inevitable." Emphasis added.
Bacchylides' ode shows it is the impulse (in this case, of the lustful youth whose gesture of the hand betrayed his thought) that may beset the ecosystem of self. Elsewhere, I was reading, "Do you see the terrible host of enemies and their savage legions, not clad in steel, but content with their natural ferocity, which is as good as any suit of armour?" In the starred paradigm, it was understood that behind the stars stood principles. The text of the world was not taken literally. At least not by those seeking freedom, through those "redeeming ethics on which all sects of philosophy agreed, but which, unhappily, requires a philosopher to comprehend," thought Pisistratus in The Caxtons.



Magazine. I am aware I could have composed a better image
but the sentiment remains.

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