I've been getting into Plato recently, and reading Phaedrus I came across this passage:
"For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty."
It immediately reminded me of the famous Paul 1 Corinthians 13:12:
"12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
Now, the phrase apparently appears in few other socratic dialogues as well (and is even used, in Phaedo I think, in the exact same form as in Paul: "through a glass darkly"). I found it intriguing, I did a little bit of googling and found a discussion by some historians, who wondered about the same thing. They came up with a set of logical, possible, and in my opinion very interesting theories:
a) Plato's dialogues were modified by Church historians/copyists so they would be more easily reconcilable with the christian narrative.
b) Paul read Plato, was influenced by his writing and made references to him in his letters.
c) The phrase "through a glass darkly" (or similiar) was a popular colloquial saying in the first few centuries prior and after Christ.
What's your take on this, /lit/? Do you have any interesting information regarding this?
Considering Paul was an intellectual immersed in the Greco-Roman world at a time when Platonism was very popular and accessible, I don't think it would be surprising if it was taken from Plato. He definitely wouldn't be unique among early Christians in being influenced by Platonic philosophy.
>"For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty."
The question is, "what is it that my senses are attempting to comprehend." in philosophy its the absolute, or logos. In religion its god.
heres some interesting stuff I found by a mystic.
I think he's saying Christianity occupies a midway point between Hebrew materialism and platonic/spiritual anti-materialism. So, ultimate redemption is fundamentally a reunion with the divine, but this plays out within a Creation/materiality which is ultimately the product of benevolence. This is why Christian responses to the problem of evil get complicated.
The Plato quote is him talking about the forms, and how physical objects aren't real. Basically he's saying that what you perceive as physical reality don't get to what the thing itself really is, but the few (philosophers) can use the physical to grasp at the truth (the form of the object).
Platonism heavily influenced early Christianity, and the idea of the Christian God and Plato's Forms are so easy to stick together, you don't really have to change anything about Plato to do so. As far as the glass darkly thing, I'd chalk it up to translation.
Was googling for the Greek (Koine/Attic) of each so I could check it out but found some stuff instead:
http://looneyfundamentalist.blogspot.ca/2011/01/platos-phaedrus-through-glass-dimly-for.html Especially interesting for:
>"For sight is the most piercing of our bodily senses; though not by that is wisdom seen; ..." - Phaedrus
>"We live by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7
At least one guy is confident enough to say Paul's words were "likely inspired" by Plato's (Robert Orlando, Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe) but he's not a scholar or anything
Also this on a Wikipedia talk page:
>I just stumbled across the same line in Jowett's translation of Plato's Phaedo. The fact that it appears in quotations suggests to me that Plato is borrowing from some earlier source.
Oddly, the actual wikipedia page for the phrase has no mention of Plato.
But now looking at the Jowett in comparison to your Fowler translation:
>they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty.
>but only a few, approaching the images through the darkling organs of sense, behold in them the nature of that which they imitate, and these few do this with difficulty.
Looking at the Greek:
>δι’ (through) ἐσόπτρου (a glass, some translations note it could be lens or looking-glass more generically, an instrument) ἐν αἰνίγματι (literally "in obscurity"),
>δι᾽ (elided διά, I think? which could mean either "[spatially] through" or "by means of") ἀμυδρῶν ὀργάνων (literally "dim instruments/tools")
For instance another translation, an older literal one called Wright, you get
>but through the medium of dull dim instruments ...
At first I thought the Fowler was an injection because of how different Jowett's was, but they do seem really close. Both are basically saying "through an optical instrument in obscurity."
Looks like the translator is off; a closer rendering reads:
"There is no shine in the images here on earth of justice and moderation and the other things honorable for souls, but through the dim organs of the senses a few people, and they with difficulty, approach these images and behold the original of the thing imaged." (250a-b, approximately, Stephen Scully trans.)
What that tells me is that Benjamin Jowett, whose translation you quote, used Paul's image, probably because it still gets at some of the sense of what Plato's text says, and partly because it's lovely and well known language.
That also leads me to think that the historians you looked at aren't very good historians; they probably can't read Greek, and if they're comparing it with other passages translated by Jowett, well, I can understand the mistake, but it's a pretty dumb one.
Thought-provoking stuff, thanks man. Especially the bit about the phrase possibly being borrowed from an even earlier text. I mean, that's another possibility, right? There might've existed a famous text (greek, egyptian, persian...) that's now lost to us and both Plato and Paul might've used the phrase because it was colloquialy now, just like today we offhandedly use a lot of metaphors that come from the Bible, often without even being aware of it.
As others have said, either a tendentious translation, or a possible link through neoplatonism, which may be an area you wish to explore if you enjoy making connections such as this one. The philosophy googledoc has what seems to be a decent section on neoplatonism, so maybe check that out.
>a) Plato's dialogues were modified by Church historians/copyists so they would be more easily reconcilable with the christian narrative.
They didn't need to modify because almost every Church father was a platonist and that continued untill Aquinas who introduced Aristotle and moved the whole world away from Plato.
>b) Paul read Plato, was influenced by his writing and made references to him in his letters.
John the Evangelist uses Logos, the term of Greek philosophy and gives it a new meaning intentionally. It would be hardly suprising to have other authors of the NT familiar with Plato.
>c) The phrase "through a glass darkly" (or similiar) was a popular colloquial saying in the first few centuries prior and after Christ.
I think Phaedo is good, more than any other work . It's not any one dialogue really, though, it's the entire process of dialogue itself. You have to see Plato's dialogues as a ritual, an initiation. If you read Plato in an analytic way to break down his points and discover his opinions and try to assess where he fits in the history of Western philosophy, etc., you are reading him wrong (or, at least, not on his own terms). The point is to have your mind swept up in the process of the dialogue, to be fully and completely engaged in it. The dialogue begins with the presentation of an idea, then that idea is attacked, a new idea is offered to correct it, etc., all the while your mind is being trained to contemplate ideas fairly without dismissing them out of hand. Then, when the dialogue reaches its peak, your mind reaches a state of aporia (loss, confusion). This is when your mind feels completely blank. It's hard to describe. Your mind loses all perception, you totally forget the world, your surroundings, your self, and are just in the immediate presence of your own mind. This is when you realise that you have a mind and how immanent it is. The danger here is that you will fall into the Hindu trap of believing that you are part of the divine mind that makes up existence, the experience is that powerful. And then the dialogue introduces its best take of the ideal (usually given by Socrates), and your now freed-up mind is able to contemplate the idea as though it were a statue stood right in front of you.
Interesting. I've actually reached a similiar conclusion, both from reading the few dialogues that I did and from real life experience (discussions that I've had few times in early morning hours) - dialectic is a sort of a ritual. I've found, several times, that after an hour and a half of talking or so, if it's under right circumstances with the right people, words start flowing out of you by themselves and you discover yourself making arguments that you would have never thought about before. The Dialogue eventually takes over the interlocutors, so they become just the mouthpieces of the Logos and go on talking without their own volition. It's this very greek state of divine possession, "enthusiasm", and that's what I think Plato might've attempted to record in his Dialogues. It's a shame that opportunities for such a discourse are so rare, because they can't really be forced.
the point is to control your mind (which produces thoughts, abstractions, speculations, concepts) until you manage to cease its products. this leads you to a stage of tranquillity/unification/serenity that is reachable through samatha meditation , as the buddhist calls it, for instance in focusing on the breath [in knowing when you exhale and inhale] and when a though occurs, you notice it as a thought, you understand that you have not focused on your breath, then choose to get back on the breath. then the buddhist says that this state permits you to reach a higher view on what you sensate, since this view shows you how impermanent and impersonal are your sensations.
instead of the breath, you can have other objects wherewith you unify your mind.
>the point is to control your mind (which produces thoughts, abstractions, speculations, concepts) until you manage to cease its products
Where's this in Plato? Is there a passage or set of passages that you have in mind?