Charmides reading: Is sophrosyne untranslatable?

NOTE: This is the 3rd of a series of posts and discussions of Plato’s dialogue Charmides. To view previous posts, go to the main blog page and scroll down from there. Please feel free to add comments, questions, corrections, etc.

In my last post, I mentioned the historical context of the Charmides, a context that Plato would have assumed all of his Greek readers would have readily have understood. But in addition to this assumption by Plato of his reader’s already understood background, there is also the simple fact that a Greek reader would already have a working understanding of the word sophrosyne. Our situation is a little more complex. Most of us must labor with translated equivalents, which are imprecise at best and misleading at worst. I have noticed a (more…)

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Historical Context of the Charmides

NOTE: This is the 2nd of a series of posts and discussions of Plato’s dialogue Charmides. To view previous posts, go to the main blog page and scroll down from there. Please feel free to add comments, questions, corrections, etc.

The historical setting of the Charmides haunts the dialogue and its arguments. At the very least, the allusions to political events and persons emphasize what is at stake in the presence/absence of the virtue of sophrosyne. (English translations: moderation, self-control, temperance, continence, sound-mindedness) Three events in particular deserve special attention for the purposes of understanding the dialogue: (1) the battle and siege of Potidaea (432 to 429 BC), and by extension the entire Peloponnesian War (432 BC to 404 BC); (2) the reign of the Thirty Tyrants from 404 to 403 BC, of which Critias was a leader and Charmides at least a henchman; and (3) the execution of Socrates by the restored democracy in 399 BC. All three are (more…)

Reading Group on Plato’s Charmides

NOTE: This is the 1st of a series of posts and discussions of Plato’s dialogue Charmides. To view later posts, go to the main blog page and scroll down from there. Please feel free to add comments, questions, corrections, etc.

If anyone out there is interested, some friends and I will be gathering to discuss Plato’s dialogue Charmides beginning on June 5th. I will start posting notes, discussion questions and background information this week and next, mostly to get you thinking about the text. Feel free to contribute with questions or comments wherever you are and as you see fit. The dialogue is largely a search for the meaning of the reality behind the Greek word sophrosyne, variously translated as “moderation” or “temperance” or “sound-mindedness”. There is no exact English equivalent, which may actually help us since we will be less prone, as a Greek reader might, to presume that we already know what it is. A problem for the Anglophone reader is that the (more…)