Saturday, January 1, 2011

On Blogging

It has come to my realisation recently (or probably a while ago but I only just thought about practicing it) that blogging is not a perfect form of communication. This place is not for A+ essays and the like, but yet another manifestation of our current fascination with imperfection.

That is not to say it is about being dumb and self absorbed, but that it is about half-finished thoughts and developing avenues in my brain and other places.

So, sorry for being lame at doing that and being a perfectionist.

I will try harder, or perhaps less hard.

You know what I mean.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Myths and Illusions.

In Plato's 'Republic' there is this fascinating little section in which Plato (sorry, Socrates!) tells us a little 'myth' (μῦθος). The purpose of the myth is to give his ideal community an identity. Especially since he has just spent a decent amount of time correcting Homer and Hesiod's theology, because they tell lies about the gods. 

Now, the myth looks like this:

"You are, all of you in this community, brothers. but when god fashioned you, he added gold in the composition of those of you who are qualified to be rulers (which is why their prestige is greatest); he put silver in the Auxiliaries, and Iron and Bronze in the farmers and other workers. Now since you are all of the same stock, though your children will commonly resemble heir parents, occasionally a silver child will be born of gold parents, or a gold of silver and so on. Therefore the first and most important of the god's commandments to the Rulers is..." - Plato, Republic 415a - c (trans. Desmond Lee)
Anyway, you get the picture, he goes on to talk about how we must make sure everyone is doing what their identity demands. After telling this story he turns to his conversation partner and he says "That is the story (μῦθος). Do you know of any way of making them believe it?"

This is weird for Plato/Socrates to say this, he wants to replace the peoples theology with another one which is obviously contrived. It's kind of a civic myth, but how can this be allowed? Has Plato not just given us an illusion and asked us to accept it? How can this be acceptable, especially for Plato who believes in a reality which must be known (if you know the allegory of the cave, think that about that).

Furthermore, the word 'μῦθος' is actually quite layered. In Euripides play 'Medeia' the teacher talks about overhearing a conversation about Medeia's future in a bar and at the end he refers to that conversation by saying: "However if this tale (μῦθος) is true, I don't know."

So, a number of related questions to think about:
What is an accurate way to think about Plato's story, would it be permissible to do something similar today? and why or why not?

What is an adequate english word to translate the word 'μῦθος' one that does away with the connotations that are normally conjured up by our word 'myth'


And to give you some modern food for thought:
"And fact is only what you believe. And fact and fiction work as a team.

Its almost always fiction in the end.
The content begins to bend.
When context is never the same.
And its all relative
even if we don't understand.
And its all understood,
especially when we don't understand.
And its all just because,
even if we don't understand.
Then let's all just believe-I was reading a book." -Jack Johnson, It's all understood.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Introducing: The Daily Dale

Hello wonderful people.

Here is a new feature.

This feature is part of my own personal development and stuff. There are a number of rules.

The main one is that this will be my pre-coffee thoughts/feelings/words. So they will be funky. Maybe.

Another rule is that they will be short and will not use foreign languages. This is for the understandability of everyone.

I will probably make grammar errors. I will probably say stupid stuff. Don't hold it against me :(

But since I have already had 2 coffees today, this does not count. Instead I leave you with my rap.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Below is my first music video ever. Enjoy. Yes there is an understandable context for this video.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More on Greek and Medeia and Euripides and awesomeness

Previously I shared with you some observations on the word order that is available thanks to an inflected language. This time there will be an observation of how the word endings (morphemes remember) can add ambiguity to a text, which, in the context of Euripides 'Medeia' is awesome and so so clever.

So, here is the quote:

ἀλλ᾽ οἵδε παῖδες ἐκ τρόχων πεπαυμένοι
στείχουσι, μητρὸς οὐδὲν ἐννοούμενοι
κακῶν: νέα γὰρ φροντὶς οὐκ ἀλγεῖν φιλεῖ.

My translation: 
But these children, having stopped playing with hopes, are coming, not having in mind of the evils confronting their mother, for it is unexpected of the children to love to reflect sorrowfully. 

However there is an ambiguity in the Greek. This is the highlighted ending of μήτηρ. It is genitive, so a really natural translation is "the evils of Medeia", however we have no idea what are the evils of Medeia this early on in the play, so the sort of logical reading is a more objective (in the sense that Medeia is the 'object of evils') genitive, where it is more like the one above. But, not so fast, this is poetry after all. We should (and can) embrace the ambiguity, and perhaps try and allow for both. As we further read about these Medeia person, we begin to discover an unsavory character who goes on to kill her own children as a means to get back at her (ex)husband Jason. So, in some ways this ambiguity is foreshadowing the future evils, much like the earlier juxtapositioning of "νέον παλαιῷ" which got is to think about what are the older evils? Well, this ambiguity also invites us to ponder what could the 'evils of Medeia' be?

On another note, this ambiguity is annoying in other contexts, the bible for example (well particular Paul the apostle) uses this little phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ about eight times in his letters. What does it mean? Is it subjective or objective? (By the way, it is objective, people just like being contrarian). The difference is either 'Faith in Christ' (objective, i.e. Christ is the object of the faith) or 'Faith of Christ' (subjective, i.e. Christ is the subject of Faith and so its the faith of Christ). Your bible will translate it as 'in' most likely. Once again, they are right, and here are 100 reasons to think so. So there. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why inflected languages are the best thing ante-sliced bread.

Slightly different to normal, but here is a small ἀπολογία for inflected languages, and why reading something in it's original language is a fantastic thing. 

First, what is an inflected language? It is a language that relies on it's word endings to get across the person or tense of a verb, or number or gender of a noun (That is only an example, they do that and so much more in fact). We call these morphemes, they are the smallest parts of language with meaning, and basically all inflected languages use these on the end of words (sometimes the whole form of the word is changed, but for now we will stick with word endings) to tell you how to read them. The result is a flexible word order. I will give a small demonstration of this:

ἡ γυν πείθει τὸν ἄνθρωπον

This is in english word order and is translated 'the woman persuades the man'.

Now, lets mess it up a bit...

τὸν ἄνθρωπον πείθει ἡ γυνὴ


πείθει ἡ γυνὴ τὸν ἄνθρωπον

These all still mean the same thing grammatically. No change is made by the order of their place. Now see where I have highlighted the word endings? They are the key to unlocking a Greek sentence.

So, observe this small excerpt from Euripides 'Medeia

ἀπωλόμεσθ᾽ ἄρ᾽εἰ κακὸν προσοίσομεν

νέον παλαιῷ , πρὶν τόδ᾽ ἐξηντληκέναι.' (Medeia, lines 78-79)

Now the nurse (Τροφός) as just learnt that there is a rumour flying around that her mistress' kids and her mistress are to be exiled from Corinth. So she exclaims:

"We are destroyed, if this new evil is added to the older before this (older evil) has run its course" (My translation)

Now, that is all very well and good as a translation, and you have grasped the basic meaning of the nurse, and  her anguish. What you will miss though is some of Euripides juxtaposition of new and old. The word for new is νέος and is here put right up against the word for old which is παλαιός. They are in purple above in the Greek quote. Now, Euripides invites his readers to speculate about what is the former (we have been introduced to Medeia's current state of mind) and why it is so bad so as to be compared to being exiled. Euripides here uses simple word order to pack quite a fantastic amount of meaning.

There will be observations from the Medeia to come; some more fantastic linguistic observations which will further demonstrate the fantwhismicallness of the inflected language.