Friday, May 08, 2009

Plut. Adv. Col. 1120C

An eagle-eyed reader noticed that in the original of an earlier post I accidentally missed out an important bit from my quotation of a Loeb translation of part of Adv. Col. 1120C. It's fixed now, but it might be worth looking again to see precisely what the Greek does mean. The phrase in question is:
...ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ ἐν πολιορκίᾳ τῶν ἐκτὸς ἀποστάντες εἰς τὰ πάθη κατέκλεισαν αὑτούς...

Einarson and De Lacy give:
... [the Cyrenaics] withdrew as in a siege from the world about them and shut themselves up in their responses...

The translation in the Appendix to Voula Tsouna's The epistemology of the Cyrenaic school (Cambrige, 1999, p.144) gives:
Instead, distancing themselves from external objects, they shut themselves up within their pathē as in a state of siege...

I suppose their might be a subtle difference between 'withdrawing from something' and 'distancing oneself from something' but otherwise these are pretty close. Tsouna perhaps rightly chooses not to translate pathē since much of her preceding discussion has been devoted to sorting out in detail just what these are.

Does this help in deciding whether the Cyrenaics are interested principally in avoiding conflict with the claims of other perceivers about the 'external things' or whether their primary aim is to ensure that their own claims are subject to no possible doubt or qualification? The two points are linked, of course, since the proposed reason for doubting one's own claim e.g. that this honey is sweet is that someone else claims that this honey is not sweet. Still, the idea of a siege suggests that some sort of conflict or attack is being imagined. The image of a siege, by the way, seems to be a relatively common in philosophical writing of about this time. By that I mean that it crops up with some frequency in Sextus (see e.g. the beginning of M 9), often to show how it is possible to undermine the dogmatic edifice constructed by some school or other. I have not, however, seen it used in precisely this sense of the relationship between a perceiver and the world or between competing claims of two perceivers.

Can anyone help me out with other examples?

1 comment:

Phil said...

Tsouna's translation seems to exploit the seige simile in a puzzling way. Where in the normal idiom we would expect teiche--they shut themselves within their walls-- we are asked to substitute pathe in her translation. I suppose we can read eis pathe in this fashion, but I don't see how our pathe are supposed to protect from things/people without. Maybe this is clearer to others.