Guide Three Semiotics and Psychoanalysis

LIT 101

and Psychoanalysis

Earl Jackson, Jr.

The „E“ at

Dialogue by Plutarch

Plutarch (45-125 CE). A Greek from Beoetia who
became an important historian. He held both Roman citizenship and Greek
residency. He wrote in Greek. In his later life, he was high priest at
the Temple at Delphi.

Delphi is the temple dedicated to Apollo where the Oracle
resides. Persons petitioned the oracle with questions. She went into a
trance and responded. The answers were riddles open to a wide variety of
interpretations. At the entry way to the shrine there were two famous placards:
„Know Thyself“  and „Nothing too Much.“

According the Plutarch there was also a plaque with a
single letter – the epislon – inscribed on it. This dialogue is a discussion
among several people attempting to determine the significance of this letter.

Lamprias: Originally only five „wise
ones“ but two tyrants forced themselves to be included as the „seven.“
„E“ is the fifth letter of the alphabet, and thus a message that there
are really only five wise men.

Chaldean stranger: There are seven vowels and seven planets.
„E“ is the second vowel in the alphabet The sun is the second planet, after
the moon. Apollo is associated with the Sun.

Nicander: „E“ is the vehicle whereby the petition approaches
the god. First letter of „ei“, the word „if“, which is often the first
word of the question put to the oracle.

Theon: the „E“ is Apollo’s injunction to learn the dialectic.
„If A then B“ The conjunction joins disparate observed facts into patterns
of cause and effect.

Eustrophus: The E is in the fifth place and five is a
holy number.

Plutarch: All numbers divide up between even an odd. the
only the each number has in common is the unity each forms. Unity is a
one. Adding a one to an even number makes it odd and to an odd even. Five
is the union of the first odd number and the first even [3+2]. 5 is called
„Marriage“ as it is the union of the first odd and the first even.

Even numbers are female and odd numbers are male. Dividing
even’s by two both halves are complete in themselves but with odds, something
sticks out. Odd numbers added to evens give odd numbers- the most generative
numbers. Fives and Sixes when squared are theonly numbers which recover
themselves 25 and 36 but six only does this once. Adding or multiplying
fives altenately yields a five or a ten, the fluctuation models the fluctuation
of the universe between creation and destruction.

Plato has five principles  inSophist:

And five in Philebus

Plutarch speculates on the correspondence of the one
set to the other in this way:

Sophist Philebus
Being Combination of Limited and Unlimited
Identity Combining Principle of Limited and Unlimited
Difference The Distinguishing Principle
Movement Unlimited
Position Limited

He also generates another five principles, but it is not
clear how he envisions their correspondence with Plato’s dual series of

Good has five governing principles: Moderation, Symmetry,
Mind, Sciences/Arts, Pure Pleasures.

Re-read  Plutarch’s dialogue with the aids here.

Try a Saussurean
of the question of the meaning of the „E“.

Try a Peircean
of the question of the meaning of the „E“.

If you like this kind of text and the kinds of readings
it stimulates, please browse The
Phaedrus Kit

Think about the relation of the letter to the number and
the meanings the number holds for the Greeks according to this text.

What does the number „5“ mean in „our“ culture?

What does the word „‚our'“ mean in the above sentence?

What do the „‚  ‚“  signify?

How would you read the above sentence aloud?


What does this „5



Great Figure
What does this „5
Among the rain

and lights

I saw the figure 5

in gold

on a red





to gong clangs

siren howls

and wheels      


through the   

dark   city.
William Carlos Williams

In each ot the above boxes, I have embedded hyperlinks
to certain answers to those questions. Think about the questions yourself
first and formulate some answer. Write it down – at least so you will have
a record and a memory of what you thought each „5“ meant before you read
these other attempts to answer the question. Remember the „answers“ you’ll
find are not necessarily the „right“ and totalizing answer. But by thinking
it through first and recording what you came up with you will better be
able to assess what affect these answers have on your subsequent answers.
I hope this is clear. Finally, compare the „answers“ to the meaning of
these modern „5“s to the answers about the „E“ in Plutarch’s dialogue.

See Study Guide

See Introduction
to Ferdinand de Saussure

See Introduction
to Charles Sanders Peirce

See Syllabus.

LIT 101

and Psychoanalysis

Earl Jackson, Jr.

Fall 2002