In the recent thread discussing Lao Tzu [stderr] commenter obscure1 mentioned Chuang Tze as having “a cast of characters” and it reminded me of a thing that I discovered about myself back in 2008. The market was crashing and people all around me were losing their jobs. Companies weren’t hiring high-priced consultants, either, so I had a lot of free time and decided to catch up on re-reading my shelf of philosophy.
I’d always had trouble with Plato’s dialogues. They seemed flat and dull to me, but one day I realized that the reason they sounded flat and dull is because my inner voice is apparently flat and dull! Because I had a drive to make, I bought a set of Audio CDs of the dialogues and fired them up when I hit the road. Suddenly, it wasn’t boring and it made more sense to me; when reading it quietly, a lot of the dialectic sounded over-wordy and tedious. But when I heard it as audio, I realized that there are spots where Plato appears to have put in a few extra bits of wordiness to give time for a piece to sink in, here or there.
Here’s the text:
Euthyphro. Why have you left the Lyceum, Socrates? and what are you doing in the Porch of the King Archon? Surely you cannot be concerned in a suit before the King, like myself?
Socrates. Not in a suit, Euthyphro; impeachment is the word which the Athenians use.
Euth. What! I suppose that some one has been prosecuting you, for I cannot believe that you are the prosecutor of another.
Soc. Certainly not.
Euth. Then some one else has been prosecuting you?
Euth. And who is he?
Soc. A young man who is little known, Euthyphro; and I hardly know him: his name is Meletus, and he is of the deme of Pitthis. Perhaps you may remember his appearance; he has a beak, and long straight hair, and a beard which is ill grown.
Euth. No, I do not remember him, Socrates. But what is the charge which he brings against you?
Soc. What is the charge? Well, a very serious charge, which shows a good deal of character in the young man, and for which he is certainly not to be despised. He says he knows how the youth are corrupted and who are their corruptors. I fancy that he must be a wise man, and seeing that I am the reverse of a wise man, he has found me out, and is going to accuse me of corrupting his young friends.
It’s maybe just me, but I have trouble with that. If you don’t, more power to you. But, now listen to the full cast recording. This is from the David Shaw-Parker, Tom Griffith full cast recording (2006) [amazon] It appears to be unavailable but perhaps there are other recordings elsewhere.
What do you think? Do you find that more consumable?
BBC did a production of The Symposium as a modern piece of people having a dinner party. I think it sort of misses the mark; though it would probably have been wonderful if Peter Greenaway had directed it and it had the production values of The Draughtman’s Contract (and it would make a lot more sense)
Aside from imagining what Peter Greenaway would do with Plato, I wonder what Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton could do with philsophical classics. Rapping Marx? Nietzsche as opera (with music by Wagner, of course)?
PS – I still haven’t been able to handle Dostoevsky. And, oh, boy, now I see audible has a dramatized full cast version. I wonder if it would be as soporific as the text.