Thursday, November 3, 2016

Socrates endorses Trump?

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Ancient and Modern Rhetoric (blog)
"In a long and fascinating segment of his written ‘memoirs’ about the philosopher Socrates (the Memorabilia), Xenophon recalls some conversations which Socrates supposedly had with various interlocutors on the subject of military and political leadership.   In one of them, a certain Nicomachides complains that the Athenians have elected a businessman called Antisthenes to a generalship rather than himself (3.4.1):
“Isn’t it like the Athenians? … they haven’t chosen me after all the hard work I have done, since I was called up, in the command of company or regiment, though I have been so often wounded in action” (and here he uncovered and showed his scars); “yet they have chosen Antisthenes, who has never served as a hoplite nor distinguished himself in the cavalry and understands nothing but money-making.”
Socrates points out that Antisthenes has often also been a choregos  (financier and impresario of dramatic and dithyrambic choruses in festival contests).  Antisthenes’ choruses have always won the contest the because he is philonikos (eager for victory). Surely this is a good trait for a general?   
Nicomachides doubts the cogency of any analogy between the handling of a chorus and of an army.  Socrates clarifies as follows  (3.4.4):
“But, you see,” said Socrates, “though Antisthenes knows nothing about music or chorus training, he showed himself capable of finding the best experts in these.”  
“In the army too, then,” said Nicomachides, “he will find other to command for him, and others to do the fighting. Do you mean to say, Socrates, that the man who succeeds with a chorus will also succeed with an army?”
“I mean that, whatever a man is a leader of (prostateuei), if he knows what he wants and can get it he will be a good leader (agathos prostates), whether he is leader of a chorus, an estate, a city or an army.”



 

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