Thursday, February 12, 2009
An Old Saw and a New One
In light of the ancient popularity of the maxim, I was interested to see Menander's dissent (fragment 181 Kassel and Austin):
In many respects "know thyself" was not well said. For "know others" would have been more useful.In our narcissistic, psychoanalytic age, it might be healthier for an individual to turn his gaze away from himself now and then. I propose a different maxim "know what is outside yourself" (nosce quod est extra te ipsum). Take an interest in something other than yourself for a change.
κατὰ πόλλ᾽ γ' ἐστὶν οὐ καλῶς εἰρημένον
τὸ γνῶθι σαυτόν· χρησιμώτερον γὰρ ἦν
τὸ γνῶθι τοὺς ἄλλους.
I have not seen Pierre Courcelle, Connais-toi toi-même de Socrate à Saint Bernard, 3 vols. (Paris, 1974-1975), or Hermann Tränkle, "ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ. Zu Ursprung und Deutungsgeschichte des delphischen Spruchs," Würzburger Jahrbücher für die Altertumswissenschaft N.F. 11 (1985) 19-31.
An update via email:
You see what when you venture to offer even a mildly philosophical view. Controversy and faction! You enlist with the Nosces and the Nescis are sure to get on case, demanding at the very least equal time to put their case for ostrichism."If you look around at what's happening in the world, you'll only get more depressed and angry. Stick your head deep in the sand and never look up!"