[lit-ideas] Re: Homage to Robert Paul

  • From: "Mike Geary" <atlas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2008 21:19:28 -0600

Tonight, in Senior Symposium, we're discussing Jimi Hendrix....so tomorrow I'll be talking
about Plato's Republic with teenagers. There must be a subtext here.<<

Indeed there is. This just happens to be one of my areas of expertise, so, please, allow me to dissertate without interruption. Socrates knew the importance of good music: "Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful." (The Republic of Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1888, page 88). I'm not sure if Socrates would have considered Jimi Hendrix rightly educated or ill-educated, but he was one hell of a guitar player (that's pronounced: "git-tar" -- I'm sure Hendrix was from South Seattle).

But it wasn't just Socrates and it wasn't just aesthetics at issue Aristotle was aghast as well. The Republic itself, he proclaimed, came under the purview of musicians: "Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them." (Aristotle, The Politics, translated by T. A. Sinclair, revised by T. J. Saunders, London: Penguin, 1981, book 8, section 5, page 466)

So was it Elvis who brought forth Kennedy, the Hippies and moral degradation culminating in the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and (my favorite) Janis Joplin? If so, it must have been Disco and New Age Music then that ushered in Reagan and the Republican Revolution. Maybe those old boys knew what they were talking about. (btw, something I've never known for sure and have always been too embarrassed to ask until now (now that everybody knows I have no dignity left to try to protect): was there an historical Socrates or was he Plato's literary invention?).

My parents must have been followers of Plato. I remember so well their wailing and gnashing of teeth when "Your Hit Parade" left the air because Snooky Lanson and Gisele McKensie and Dorothy Collins and Russell Arms couldn't even vaguely approximate the sounds and rhythms and passions of rock 'n roll. My parents realized that the end of the world as they knew it was at hand and there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it except wail and gnash their teeth just as Plato did in the Republic: "For a change to a new type of music is something to beware of as a hazard of all our fortunes. For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions." (Republic 424b-c.) Amen.

But what of RP's dog in this show -- Aristotle? We've seen one view of his, but surely that's an anomaly. Who knew better than Aristotle that change is the name of the game? And so I looked for his hunkering down, sheep dog style, content to let the sheep be sheep but keeping an ever watchful, protective eye lest the Payolan wolves make off with the lambs. Surely it's writ down like that somewhere. But not according to Brian Neumann who sees Aristotle barking in alarm, not just at Jimi Hendrix but at the 'liberalism' of Socrates: "It seems that Aristotle believed that Socrates was too liberal because he permitted the Phrygian mode to be added to the Dorian. Aristotle's view was that this combination made the music too orgiastic and emotional." (Brian S. Neumann -- (http://amazingdiscoveries.org/socrates-and-plato-talk-music.html)

"No more orgies!  Enough with the orgies."  Aristotle's speech to the UN.

Ah, well, I'm into Rasputina now anyway.

Mike Geary

----- Original Message ----- From: "Robert Paul" <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 3:03 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Homage to Robert Paul

But seriously...

Now any damn fool (Quick, find one besides me! No, not beside me, besides me!) knows that this sentence should have been written:

Besides, electric blankets, as *have* been discovered since the film was made, are bad for one's health.

I was never 'taught' grammar. I go by what philosophers call 'intuition' and ordinary people might call flying by the seat of my pants. Over the years I've learned how to make the who/whom distinction and other life-and-death choices: but mostly I judge sentences by how they strike my sensitive ears and Eric's sentence doesn't sound right. Surely 'as *have* been discovered' should be 'as [it] *has* been discovered, the 'it' perhaps being optional. I don't really like the sound of this fix either and agree with Eric author that

...the thought could have been better expressed:

Since the film was made, studies have shown that electric blankets are bad for one's health.


Validating Andre's comment, subsequent scientific studies have shown that electric blankets induce an additional health risk among those who use them.

I wonder about the 'it,' as in 'it has been discovered.' There must be an official name for it (other than 'pronoun'). I think of it as the the vacuous 'it,' found in e.g. 'it looks like rain,' 'il fait froid,' 'it isn't clear whether Newton or Leibniz invented the calculus,' and so on.

Tonight, in Senior Symposium, we're discussing Jimi Hendrix. I agreed to cover for one of my colleagues in first-year humanities this week and part of next while she attends a conference, so tomorrow I'll be talking about Plato's Republic with teenagers. There must be a subtext here. There usually is.

Robert Paul
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