Friday, March 23, 2007

Random Crito point.

Whenever I teach the Crito (which is most semesters) my students interpret Socrates as advocating some strong sort of pacificsm when he says that one should never return a wrong for a wrong in 49c. They are aided in this interpretation by the Grube translation, which goes like this
Socrates: Nor must one, when wronged, inflict wrong in return, as the majority believe, since one must never do worng.

Crito: That seems to be the case.

Socrates: Come now, should one injure anyone or not, Crito?

Crito: One must never do so.

Socrates: Well then, if one is oneself injured, is it right, as the majority say, to inflict an injury in return, or is it not?

Crito: It is never right.

Socrates: Injuring people is no different from wrongdoing.

Crito: That is true
I always steer my students away from the strong pacifist interpretation suggested by this translation, mostly because it doesn't fit with anything else Socrates says, or his brave record as a soldier. So I am troubled to see now that most of my students are using the Grube translation. The key sentence here is "Injuring people is no different from wrongdoing." Unless I am reading things wrong, "injuring" is κακῶς ποιεῖν and "wrongdoing" is ἀδικεῖν. Now κακῶς in the firs phrase is an incredibly general term for all things bad and ἀδικεῖν is basically injustice. So literally this sentence reads "making bad on someone is the same thing as doing an injustice to them." (I'm actually rather partial to "don't make bad on people" as a moral principle.) The point is that at no point in this passage does Socrates refer to violence in purely physical terms. When he condemns something, he always uses a moral word for it. He doesn't condemn hitting people or hurting them per se; he condemns doing something immoral to them.

Am I right here? Is the Grube translation just misleading?

Update: It looks like I am getting wronger. ACW points out that I have swapped the glosses of κακῶς ποιεῖν and ἀδικεῖν. The former is wrongdoing. The latter is "injury" according to Grube, and injure "esp in medical sense" is definition 2 in the LSJ. Also, Tredennick uses "injure" in the Penguin translation. Harold North Fowler has "do evil" though.

5 comments:

ACW said...

I don't have much Greek, but it feels to me like you might have exchanged the glosses on the two phrases. Poiein is the "make/do" verb, right? So that would make kako:s poiein "badness-doing", and it seems likely that this is the phrase that Grube translates as "wrongdoing". That would leave adikein to "doing an injury", rather than the vaguer "injustice", and for all I know, that might be a fine gloss.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I think you're right about switching the glosses. Grube is translating kako:s poiein as "wrongdoing." But it still seems misleading to me to use a term like "injure", which has basically physical connotations. Although looking now into the depths of the LSJ entry for adikein, I see that it can mean injure "in a medical sense" hrrm.

C.A. said...

I'm not sure I agree with acw. I think in general adikein has more explicit connection to the moral notion of justice than kakos poiein. And the grammar of the sentence in question seems to support Rob's glosses.

But starting with 49a the logic of the passage seems to be.

1. We should in no way do wrong (adiketeon) willingly. (It is never agathon or kalon to adikein)

1a. Wrongdoing (adikein) is bad/evil (kakon) and shameful (aiskhron) to the wrongdoer (even if it is necessary to endure (paskhein) a more grievous harm (khalepotera).

2. Then we should not wrong in any way (adikein).

3. And we ought not to wrong even in return for a wrong, since we must not do wrong in any way.

4. We ought not do bad (kakourgein). (i.e. it is wrong, I take it).

5. It is wrong (ou dikaon) to do bad in response to bad (antikakourgein kakos paskhonta).

6. For doing bad (kakos poiein)does not differ from wronging (tou adikein).

So the argument proceeds from acceptance that we should not do wrong to we should not injure/do bad/harm because it is wrong.

But then Socrates adds:

οὔτε τοῦ ἀδικεῖν οὔτε τοῦ ἀνταδικεῖν οὔτε κακῶς πάσχοντα ἀμύνεσθαι ἀντιδρῶντα κακῶς

Here he says that we should not do wrong, nor return wrong for wrong, nor suffering an injury defend ourselves (ward off amunesthai) retaliating harmfully (antidronta kakws).

This last point perhaps isn't pacifism, but it is hard to see how it doesn't entail something close to pacifism. I take it that pacifism rejects the use of violence to achieve any ends.

Socrates does not reject the use of violence that doesn't harm or that isn't "doing bad."

So then the question is, I guess, is all "violence" doing bad. If by violence we include punishment, then Socrates in the Gorgias would reject the claim. There inflicting pain (harm?) on the unjust is benefitting them. (don't have the greek handy--I'll check in the office later).

C.A. said...

Just a clarification. In #6 the subject of the sentence must be kakos poiein and diapherei takes the genitive so "does not differ from adikein/wrongdoing."

Basically I think you are right Rob, that whether an act of violence is kakos poiein or not is a moral question still.

C.A. said...

Alternatively, we could take adikein as "to do injustice" and kakos poiein as "to do wrong." Then the argument would be narrower and leave entirely open the question of whether injuring/harming is doing wrong.

I guess that's what you're suggesting Rob?