THE AFFECTS AND SENSES IN PLATO’S CHARMIDES
At Charmides 167b11-c2, Socrates speaks of “some one (µ?a t??) ?p?st?µ? which is of nothing but of itself and of the other ?p?st?µa?, and moreover is an ?p?st?µ? of ignorance (??ep?st?µ?s???) at the same time”. He goes on to say to Critias “if you examine this sort of thing in other cases, I imagine it will seem to you (d??e? s??) to be impossible”. Then, by means of a series of leading questions at 167c8-168a5, he gets Critias to deny that seeing and hearing and five affects (?p???µ?a, ß????s??, ????, f?ß??, d??a), as well as terms of comparison1, can act on themselves or their like. And, in the case of seeing and hearing, to deny that these senses can direct their attention towards their own negation; Socrates calls this a seeing of “not seeings” (µ? ??e??) and a hearing of “not hearings” (µ? ???a?). He dismisses the notion of terms of comparison acting on themselves as logically impossible because in exercising their d???µe?? on themselves, they would become the contrary of themselves2. But he neither affirms nor denies the propositions about the affects and senses. As he says, hearing and seeing and the affects3 acting on themselves would appear incredible to some, but perhaps not to others. My aim here is to show that dramatic details in the dialogue provide real-life instances of the affects and senses acting as Socrates intimates to Critias they cannot4.
I – Affects
At 167e1-2 Critias denies that there is an ?p???µ?a of itself and of the other ?p???µ?a?, unlike ordinary ?p???µ?a which is the simple desire for something pleasant. A few pages on, at 169c3-6, Socrates likens the experience of being irresistably seized by aporia, after noticing another's aporia, to that of contagious yawning. A contagious yawn manifests the desire for pleasant sleep evoked by seeing in another's yawn the expression of the same desire5. I submit that the desire for pleasant sleep is an ?p???µ?a of itself in that it desires to reproduce itself in the souls of second-hand yawners through the agency of contagious yawning. And that it is also an ?p???µ?a of the other ?p???µ?a? in that the yawners all feel the same desire for pleasant sleep (?spe? ?? t??? ?asµ?µ????? ?ata?t???? ????te? ta?t?? t??t? s?µp?s???s?? [169c4-5]).
Nor does Critias accept, at 167e4-5, that there is a ß????s?? of itself and of the ß????se?? of others, different from the usual kind of ß????s?? which intends to acquire or achieve some good thing. But consider 162c6-d3 where Charmides tries to project onto Critias the intention to defend the proposition that s?f??s??? is doing one's own things (? µ?? ??? ?a?µ?d?? ß????µe??? µ? a?t?? ?p??e?? ????? ???’ ??e???? t?? ?p????se??). Critias did not countenance this but seemed angry at Charmides "like a playwright (scil. angry) with an actor who is saying his lines poorly". The playwright's intention that a speech with an intent of its own6 be delivered well, a speech which he himself wrote, is an instance of a ß????s?? of itself.
At 167e7-8, Critias disavows the existence of an ???? of itself and of the other ???te?, unlike ordinary ???? which is the desire to embrace a beautiful body. Socrates' erotic arrousal at seeing inside Charmides' cloak, at 155d3-4, is an instance of ordinary ????. Chairephon, a page back, at 154c8-d5, anticipates just such a response. He extolls the beauty of Charmides' body to Socrates, saying that if the e?p??s?p?? youth should choose to take his clothes off, it will seem to you that he has no face, so perfectly beautiful is his form7. Chairephon is referring to an ocular phenomenon, coincident with erotic arrousal, that occurs when a beautiful body is revealed: the body’s greater beauty draws one’s gaze from the face, which moves to the periphery of the visual field and disappears. In envisioning his friend Socrates’ erotic arrousal when Charmides disrobes, it is likely that the uninhibited Chairephon (cf. 153b2-4) also looks forward to his own erotic arrousal and those of his other friends8. In other words, Chairephon is feeling an ???? of itself and of the other ???te?.
Nor has Critias noticed, at 167e10-168a1, a fear which fears itself and the other fears, but which does not fear any of t? de???. But consider Socrates's remark at 153c9-d1: "I recounted to my interlocutors the events of the battle, whatever anyone asked me; each asked a different question". Everyone knew who had died because the casualty lists had already been posted, as Chairephon confirms at 153b9-c1. No one asked “Did so-and-so die at Poteidaia?” The dialogue is recounted in such a way that it is known what the questioners did not ask. It seems appropriate to consider what they did ask. It would not be in Socrates’ style to gratify idle curiosity about the battle. I suggest that some or all asked whether slain son, brother, kinsman or friend displayed fear on the battlefield, the fear of another’s fear motivating the different questions. Aside the dreadful prospect of his imminent death, the soldier also fears that his comrades in arms might see him displaying a coward's fear. Apparently with Charmides 167e10-168a1 in mind, Plato in Laws explains how the soldier’s fear of his own fear differs from his fear of t? ?a??: “the fear of incurring the shame of cowardice in the eyes of one’s comrades” (f???? d? f?ß?? a?s????? p??? ?a??? [1.647b7]) is seen as a special case of the common fear, grounded in shame, of acquiring a bad reputation. The latter is a kind of fear different from and nearly opposite (d?? f?ß?? e?d? s?ed?? ??a?t?a [1.646e4]) to the fear of t? ?a??. t? ?a?? here and t? de??? in Charmides are the existential dangers which mankind dreads. cf. Protagoras 341b2-5: "No one ever speaks of dreadful wealth nor dreadful peace nor dreadful health, but of dreadful disease and dreadful warfare and dreadful poverty, inasmuch as dreadful (? de????) is bad (?a???)".
The examination of specific affects terminates, at 168a3-4, with Socrates asking Critias whether there is a belief which is a belief about (scil. others’) beliefs and about (scil. belief) itself, but which believes none of the beliefs which others believe. Unlike speech about the other affects, the expression of a belief, even if framed interrogatively as it is here, is eo ipso an instance of such a belief.
II - Seeing and hearing
At 154c6-7, Socrates noticing that all the children were looking at Charmides (???’ ??? ?a? t??? pa?s? p??s?s??? t?? ????, ?? ??de?? ????s’ ?ß?epe? a?t??) is an instance of a seeing of other seeings9. The same passage provides an instance of a seeing of itself in that Socrates was also aware that he was exercising his own faculty of seeing in watching the children.
For an instance of seeing a lack of seeing, cf. 172a7-9: ??? d?, ?? d’ ???, ???? ?t? ??daµ?? ?p?st?µ? ??deµ?a t??a?t? ??sa p?fa?ta?. ???, ?f?. The ?p?st?µ? which they do not see is that of knowing what one knows and what one does not know.
Literary writings in antiquity were customarily read out loud10. For an instance of hearing a hearing, cf. 153d5-154a2 where Socrates is heard describing Critias as “glancing at the door and seeing some youngsters entering and (scil. hearing them) reviling one another” (?a? ? ???t?a? ?p?ß???a? p??? t?? ???a?, ?d?? t??a? ?ea??s???? e?s???ta? ?a? ???d????µ????? ????????). To be recognized as such, reviling must be heard. For an instance of a hearing of itself, cf. 156d1 where Socrates hears himself recounting how he regained his courage when he heard Charmides approving the medical principle he had proposed (???? ????sa? a?t?? ?pa???sa?t?? ??e?????s? te).
At 167d4-6, Critias denies that there is such a thing as “a hearing of not hearings." I read this odd phrase as equivalent to noticing pregnant or significant silences. A significant silence emerges from the concatenation of the following passages. At 153c8-9, after Socrates entered the palaistra and sat down, he exchanged greetings with Critias and the others (?spa??µ?? t?? te ???t?a? ?a? t??? ??????). It follows that Critias exchanges greetings with those who enter the palaistra. At 155d4-e1, in aid of repressing his erotic arrousal, Socrates thinks of a piece of useful advice: Beware of being arroused by beautiful boys! He read this advice in a poem by Kydias which the poet "recommended to another person" (???? ?p?t???µe???). At 164d6-7, Critias claims that the Delphic inscription G???? sa?t?? is not advice, but a greeting of the god to those who enter the sanctuary. He goes on to say that authors of later inscriptions, supposing in error that G???? sa?t?? was a piece of advice, dedicated their inscriptions as "useful advice" (s?µß????? ???s?µ??? [165a6-7]) to others. At 176b5-d5, the passage which terminates the dialogue, Critias gives Charmides a piece of useful advice, that he should associate with Socrates for the sake of his self-improvement. If Socrates is not willing to accept this relationship, he is to be forced to. Charmides is not an other like the others. He is Critias' nephew, ward and future partner in the rule of the Thirty Tyrants in 404 B.C.E. Charmides’ improvement through association with Socrates will increase Critias’ political power. Critias is advising one of his own. As for Critias offering disinterested advice to others, consider this ratio: the god greeting those who enter the sanctuary is to Critias greeting those who enter the palaistra as the god not giving advice to mankind (so Critas claims) is to Critias not giving advice to others. Three terms of the ratio are drawn from the text. The missing term is to be inferred. It is significant that Critias is not heard giving useful advice to others.
Translations of the Greek are my own. I follow the text of JOHN BURNET, Platonis opera, vols. I-V, Oxford 1901-06.
1 µe????, d?p??s???, p????, ßa??te???, p?esß?te???.
2 Thus µe???? becomes ??att?? than itself, d?p??s??? ?µ?se?? of itself, etc.
3 ???? d’ a? ?a? ???? ?a? ?t? ?e ????s?? a?t? ?a?t?? ???e??, ?a? ?e?µ?t?? ??e??, ?a? p??ta a? t? t??a?ta t??? µ?? ?p?st?a? ?> pa??s???, ?s?? d? t?s?? ?? [168e9-169a1]. The expressions "motion moving itself" and "heat combusting" recall, in chiasmus, the somatic inflammation and transport of soul which Socrates experienced at the sight of Charmides' body (?a? ?f?e??µ?? ?a? ????t’ ?? ?µa?t?? ?? [155d4]). Read as a compound metaphor for ????, the otherwise intrusive and dissimilar categories of self-motion and heat indicate the exophoric antecedents for the anaphor "and all of the like", namely the four other affects.
4 Other than the exception cited in note 9, no commentator so far as I know identifies dramatic details in the dialogue as providing instances of the propositions at 167c8-168a5.
5 ”Aristotle” Problemata 886a24-26 explains contagious yawning this way. Similarly, in the literature of cognitive science, STEVEN M. PLATEK, S.R. CRITTON, T.E. MYERS, GORDON G. GALLUP, Contagious yawning; the role of self-awareness and mental state attribution, Cognitive Brain Research 17:2, 2003, 223: “We hypothesized that contagious yawning occurs as a consequence of a theory of mind, the ability to infer or empathize with what others want [italics added], know, or intend to do“.
6 For the notion of speeches having an intent, cf. Aristotle Poetics 1454b34-35: "Orestes himself says what the playwright intends, but not what the story's intent requires" (??e???? d? a?t?? ???e? ? ß???eta? ? p???t?? ???’ ??? ? µ???? [scil. ß???eta?]).
7 The phenomenon is also described by Statius Thebaid 6.571-3.
8 cf. Apology 21a1 where Socrates says of Chairephon that “he was my friend from childhood and a friend to most of you” (?µ?? te ?ta???? ?? ?? ???? ?a? ?µ?? t? p???e? ?ta???? te).
9 WALTER THOMAS SCHMID, Plato’s Charmides and the Socratic Ideal of Rationality, Albany, N.Y. 1998, 90, also construes this remark as showing that Socrates was "aware . . . of others' viewings of him (scil. Charmides)".
10 cf. Theaetetus 143c7, Parmenides 127c3, Phaedrus 230e3-5.