Anthony C on the Ion Part 2

Anthony C. on Plato’s Ion with Earl Jackson,
Jr.’s Comments Part 2

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Earl Jackson, Jr.

. . . despite his „talent“ for dramatics,
intonation,and voice inflection—the seemingly necessary vocal tools of
a reciter—his knowledge/understanding of Homer, specifically in terms of
those various“arts“ discussed/featured in Odyssey, fails to extend
his ability to memorize the epic poem.
ability to memorize the Iliad and the Odyssey is rather astonishing don’t
you think? By saying his knowledge „fails to extend beyond“ this ability
it shrinks the magnitude of that accomplishment. Furthermore,
shouldn’t read the Ion naively. We should be reading Socrates’s characterization
of poets, rhapsodes, knowledge, and authority as critically as we read
Ion’s responses – in fact, it is only by critically reading Socrates’s
attitudes that we can open the text up beyond the possibilities allowed
by the interpretative orthodoxy that Socrates attempts to construct in
this exchange.
This becomes important when one considers
therole of such rhapsodes in Greece, as interpreters of Homer, and in thatcapacity,
as, essentially rewriters of the text. The danger apparent here,Socrates
asserts, is in that the interpretation of Homer, conducted bya rhapsode,
is a product entirely of ignorance.
Remember, the Homeric
poems were not written in the first place. Performers of the poems,
the rhapsodes, were the means by which the Iliad and the Odyssey were disseminated
and preserved. Furthermore, the „ignorance“ of the rhapsode to me collapses
the differences between „interpretation“ in terms of performance and „interpretation“
in terms of textual analysis. Socrates ignores this distinction. The hermeneutic
situation we are in as 20th century readers doesn’t really allow
us to ignore it.
There are further problems inherent in thissituation
emerging out of an audience’s inability to recognize distinctionsbetween
interpretations based on content and on dramatics in order to furthercreate
that dynamic where a choice is made—in order to recognize good,one must
differentiate good from bad.
You’re conflating analysis of the text (interpretation) with value judgments.
Understanding a poem or explicating it are processes that can occur entirely
independently of judgements of taste or morality. Look at how much brain
power goes into analyses of popular cultural texts that may not have been
produced with the expectations of such attention. Or critical readings
of fascist novelsand films. 

On a more prosaic note, your use of „good“and
„bad“ is unfortunate because „good“ sounds like „the Good“ which will be
one of Plato’s major concerns and watchwords.

Further, if one chooses good based upon falseinformation
or an ill presentation of that dynamic needed for choice, goodmay be bad,
or good may the only option available.


What does it mean to
be misinformed into choosing „good“? This still sounds like a moral choice
rather than aesthetic, and therefore is doubly curious – if it is the „good“that
one chooses, why is it necessary to be misinformed in order to choose it?
And would a proponent of the „good“ use trickery or misinformation to attain
this end? I know that’s not what you’re talking about, but I want you to
see the communication noise factor here. But on the other hand, how would
one select the „good“ poem or „good performance“ based on misinformation?
If it’s „good“ and you’ve been told it is, what’s the problem? And also,
you’re suggesting that aesthetic choice requires specialized knowledge
or submission to the judgements of those persons or institutions invested
with that knowledge and that authority. Which is fine, especially since
that is precisely one of the foundational assumptions upon which Socrates
is basing his attempt to occupy that position of interpretative authority.
But if you are operating on a similar presumption, you have to do something
that Socrates doesn’t do here: you have to account for that authority to
which you are directing questions of aesthetic quality.

Thirdly – if „good“ is the only choice, it
isn’t a choice. Third-and-a-halfly – if „good“ works were the only available,
how are criteria developed to distinguish „good“ from „bad“ and thereby
determine that all available works are „good“?

[Ion], as does Homer, works within the realmof
the spoken word, and while dramatics and adornment may mark the popularityof
the rhapsode, neither is any indication of a correct, or even valid, interpretation
of any art expressed in Homer’s poems, particularly that art of telling
a story, where the telling becomes at once a theatrical presentation, and
an interpretation.
You’re buying Socrates’s
innuendos wholesale. What makes the rhapsodes talents and skills irrelevant
to „a correct, or even valid, interpretation of any art expressed in Homer’s
poems, particularly the art of telling a story“? It’s thanks to the rhapsodes
the poems survive, and so their techniques probably were both correct and
valid in that story-telling art. I think you might enjoy Preface to Plato. 

I like the concluding part of the last sentence,
except it would be more interesting if this were the beginning of a inquiry
and you were assuming that the co-implication of narration, performance,
and interpretation were the possibilities that the rhapsode represents
rather than their decline or contamination.

What you did here was really good- clear, wellwritten,
and obviously engaged. Now recharge that lucidity with some suspicion and
we’ll really have something. 

I’m sure you’ll be more suspicious
in the future

Socrates’ point, concerning
the art of the critique,and the interpretations which emerge out of that
critical analysis, isthat the role of the philosopher, remains solely,
unlike the mad poet,in charge of his faculties and in control of his story,
especially the(moral or ethical) meaning of the story. 
As such, the art expressed in the story is
theconveyance of morality, and the artist, is the philosopher.
Nice. Very nice. I
would recomplicate this (of course ;-)). Notice that Socrates does not
make any such claim that a philosopher is an artist, in fact, he would
probably object to this identification. But the difference between Socrates
and Plato is the difference between the statements Socrates makes in Plato’s
dialogues, and Plato’s realization of the philosopher as artist in writing
the dialogues.

To Ray Nayler on Ion

To Javiera on Ion

To Jeff Bobis on Ion

To Nichole on Cratylus

To Syllabus