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209 Animals and Angels The Myth of Life as a Whole in Republic 10 Claudia Baracchi Once they say he was passing by when a puppy was being beaten, and he took pity and said: Stop, do not harm it; for it is the soul of a friend, I know it because I heard its voice. —Xenophanes, fr. 7 In beginning with the end of a text, one would act in a way not dissimilar to that of Lysias—at least if we are to heed Socrates’s statement in the Phaedrus, which emphasizes the structural disorder of the speech on love by the celebrated Attic orator: “He’s trying to swim through the speech on his back in reverse, starting from the end rather than from the beginning” (Phaedrus 264a).1 The fact that the text at stake might be Plato’s Republic only makes the predicament more severe, especially since the Republic ends with a myth: its conclusion is an opening; it presents the characteristic indefiniteness and infinity of myths. In this way, the text interminably defers its own end. It fails to reach a closure and abides unending.2 Like eros (Symposium 203e), language (logos) is an animal that is fittingly arranged as a living organism (Phaedrus 264c, 265d–266b).3 It is presumably just as mad. Here, however, in this disorderly beginning, the problem seems to be not so much the lack of adequately clarified definitions, whose implications one would organically unfold, proceeding then to the necessary consequences (Phaedrus 263d–e). Rather, the difficulty in beginning, as we are, from the end, lies in starting from the outcome as if it were statically given: taking what is given, while neglecting the tortuous, laborious path of inquiry and exchange that allowed for such a giving. 13 210 | Claudia Baracchi As the barest gesture toward an archeology (or etiology) of the mythical gesture at the end of the Republic, let us simply note that this open conclusion in many ways echoes the beginning. Indeed, we should not forget two decisive elements in Book I: (1) the “theoretical” desire of Socrates, who descends to the Piraeus in order to satisfy his curiosity to “see” (327a), and (2) the evanescent figure of Cephalus, who seems an altogether negligible ornament placed at the entrance of the text, but who actually orients the entire dialogue and dictates its thematic focus. Recall those initial moments: Socrates addresses the father at “the threshold of old age”: “For my part, Cephalus . . . I am really delighted to discuss with the very old. Since they are like men who have proceeded on a certain path that perhaps we too will have to take, one ought, in my opinion, to learn from them what sort of road it is—whether it is rough and hard or easy and smooth” (328d–e).4 He then solicits from Cephalus a report (exangello) about his experience in that liminal position. For, near the end of his journey, the old patriarch stands before the gaping mouth of another world and is called to venture the most extreme transition into that chasm. Before long, however, Cephalus proves unable to sustain that conversation and be the angelos Socrates longs to hear, the messenger conveying something of the other world into this one. The dialogue then continues in Cephalus’s absence, after he has withdrawn in order to perform ritual sacrifices to the gods, so as to secure a safe crossing of the threshold and assuage his fears. With the myth bringing the nocturnal conversation to a close, Socrates will return to this question and show that it was never left aside, let alone forgotten. The question of such a crossing, and above all the manner of such a transition between worlds (“from this world to the other and back again,” whether “by the underground, rough road” or “by the smooth one, through the heavens” [619e]), will be shown in its essential connection with the theme of justice on which the dialogue as a whole hinges. For indeed the issue of justice is cast from the start in terms of life (358a–d). Justice is to be investigated in its enactment within the psychē, as it informs the living in its becoming. In fact, as will become increasingly clear, justice designates a particular arrangement of life, life unfolding in a certain way and cherishing in this its own delight and fulfillment—whether seen or unseen, becoming the object of honor and public acknowledgment or encountering...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016201
Related ISBN
9780253016133
MARC Record
OCLC
907092951
Pages
270
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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