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Xenophon’s Wisdom

Reader and commenter Escoffier has offered to write an interpretation of an excerpt from Xenophon‘s Memorabilia, a 4th Century BC collection of Socratic dialogues.

In this post, I am simply going to present the text itself.  Escoffier will be providing his reading of it in the next couple of days.



There was once a beautiful[1] woman in the city whose name was Theodote[2] and who was the sort to keep company with[3] whoever persuaded her.  When one of those who were present mentioned her and said that the beauty of the woman surpassed speech, and when he said that painters, to whom she displayed as much of herself as it was noble to display, visited her to draw her likeness, Socrates said, “We must go to behold her, for surely it is not possible for those who have merely heard to learn what surpasses speech.”  And the one who had described her said, “Hurry up and follow.”

Thus they went to Theodote and came upon her standing for a certain painter, and they beheld her.  After the painter left off, Socrates said, “Men, should we be more grateful to Theodote for displaying to us her beauty, or she to us because we beheld?  If the display is more beneficial to her, is it for her to be grateful to us, while if the beholding is more beneficial to us, for us to be grateful to her?”

And when someone said that what he said was just, he said, “She, then, already gains from our praise and will be the more benefited whenever we should report it to more people, while we already desire to touch what we have beheld and will go away rather excited and will long for what we have left behind.  From these things it is possible that it is we who serve and it is she who receive service.”

And Theodote said, “By Zeus,[4] if this is so, then it is I who should be grateful to you for the beholding.”

After this, Socrates—seeing that she herself was adorned in a costly manner and that her mother, who was with her, was dressed in served in no chance manner and that her maidservants were many and good-looking and that not even these were inattentively maintained and that her household was furnished with the other things in abundance—said, “Tell me, Theodote, do you own a farm?”

“Not I,” she said.

“How about a household with revenues?”

“Not a household either.”

“But some artisans, perhaps?”

“Not artisans either,” she said.

“Then what source do you have for your provisions?” he said.

“If someone who has become my friend wants to treat men well,” she said, “he is my livelihood.”

“By Hera[5], Theodote,” he said, “it is a noble profession indeed, and far better to possess a herd of friends than a herd of sheep, goats and cattle.  But,” he said, “do you entrust it to chance whether some friend will light on you, like a fly, or do you yourself contrive something?”

“How could I find a contrivance for this?” she said.

“It belongs much more, by Zeus, to you to do this than to spiders,” he said.  “You know how they hunt for things for their livelihood: for, of course, they weave fine webs and use whatever falls into them for sustenance.”

“Are you advising me too,” she said, “to weave some hunting net?”

“No, for you surely shouldn’t think that you will hunt so artlessly the prey that is worth the most: friends.  Don’t you see that even for rabbits, which are worth very little, hunters can craft many artifices?  For, since they graze at night, they procure for themselves dogs fit for nighttime hunting and hunt them with these.  And because they run away when it is day, they acquire other dogs who find the rabbits out by perceiving through scent the path they take from their grazing ground to their lair.  And because they are swift-footed enough to escape by running even when they are visible, they furnish themselves with still other dogs, swift ones, so that they may capture them by following on their heels.  And because some of them escape even from these, they set nets up on the paths through which they flee, so that when they fall into them they may become enmeshed.”

“So with what thing of this sort,” she said, “could I hunt friends?”

“By Zeus,” he said, “if instead of a dog you acquire someone who will track and find for you those who love beauty and are rich, and who, after finding them, will contrive to throw them into your nets.”

“And what sort of nets,” she said, “do I have?”

“To be sure, one that is indeed very entangling: your body,” he said.  “And in it a soul, through which you learn both how you might gratify with a look and delight with what you say; and that you must receive with gladness one who is attentive but shut out one who is spoiled; and that when a friend is sick, at least, to watch over him worriedly, and when he does something noble to be exceedingly pleased by it along with him; and to gratify with your whole soul the one who worries about you exceedingly.  I know very well that you know how to love, at any rate, in a manner not only soft but also well intentioned; and as to the fact that your friends are best for you, I know that you convince not only by speech but by deed.”

“By Zeus,” said Theodote, “I, for my part, contrive none of these things.”

“And yet,” he said, “it makes a big difference to approach a human being according to nature and correctly.  For to be sure you would neither take nor hold a friend by violence, but this prey is both captured and kept constant by means of benefaction and pleasure.”

“You speak truly,” she said.

“You must first, then,” he said, “require that those who worry about you do the sort of things that they will least regret doing, and then you yourself should then make a return by gratifying them in the same fashion.  For this way they would most become friends and love for the longest time and confer the greatest benefactions.  And you would most gratify them, if you should give of yourself to those who are in need.  For you see that even the most pleasant of foods, if someone offers it before there is desire, appears unpleasant and even provokes disgust in those who are satiated; but if someone offers it after inducing hunger, even if it is very common it appears quite pleasant.”

“How then,” she said, “would I be able to induce hunger in someone for what I have?”

“By Zeus,” he said, “if, first, you neither approach nor offer any reminder to those who are satiated until they stop being full and are in need again.  Then, if you offer reminders to those who are in need by means of the most decorous intimacy possible and by visibly wishing to gratify, yet fleeing—until they are most in need.  For it makes a big difference to give the same gifts at that point, rather than before they desire them.”

And Theodote said, “Why then, Socrates, don’t you become my fellow hunter of friends?”

“If, by Zeus,” he said, “you persuade me.”

“How, then, might I persuade you?” she said.

“You yourself will seek this out and will contrive it,” he said, “if you have some need of me.”

“Then visit often,” she said.

And Socrates, joking about his own lack of busyness, said, “But Theodote, it is not very easy for me to find leisure, for in fact many affairs both private and public deprive me of leisure.  And I also have female friends who will not allow me to leave them day or night, since they are learning love charms and incantations from me.”

“Do you understand these things as well, Socrates?” she said.

“Well,” he said, “why do you think Apollodorus here and Antisthenes[6] are never absent from me? And why do you think Cebes and Simmias are present from Thebes?  Know well that this hasn’t happened without many love charms, incantations and spells.”

“Then lend me the spell,” she said, “so that I might draw it first against you.”

“But by Zeus,” he said, “I myself do not wish to be drawn to you—but that you come to me.”

“Then I will go to you,” she said.  “Only receive me.”

“But I will receive you,” he said, “unless some female dearer than you is inside.”

1.  Translates the Greek word kalos, which has a variety of meanings in English, including “beautiful,” “fine” and “good.”  This ambiguity is a key feature of Xenophon’s writing and Socrates’ thought.  For instance, one of the other three of Xenophon’s Socratic writings, the Oeconomicus (or “Skilled Household Manager”) hinges on Socrates “discovery” that those who appear kalos on the outside are not necessarily kalos on the inside.

2.  Theodote was a famous courtesan or hetaira, sort of a high class whore or, if you want to be generous, a kind of escort/call girl/geisha.  To be distinguished from an ordinary prostitute (porne) who supplies sex only.  There was no bright line between a hetaira and a “kept woman” so the moral distinction based on any open transaction is ambiguous.  Athenian women (as was true of most Greek women) were expected to stay in the home most of the time and their education was poor.  Hetairai on the other hand were highly educated in music, the arts, and poetry.  Hence some sophisticated (and rich) Greek men felt that hetairai made more interesting companions than their own wives.   The most famous hetaira of all was Aspasia, mistress of Pericles.  Theodote herself eventually (later than the date of the dramatic action depicted here) became the mistress of Alcibiades.

3.  suneinai; ambiguous, can also imply sexual intercourse.

4.  Oaths are often overlooked in reading Socratic writings in both Plato and Xenophon but they are key to the dramatic action of the work.  In general, they convey the speakers’ emphasis and surprise.

5.  Hera was Zeus’ wife (and sister) and the goddess of women and marriage.  This oath would typically be used by women—see, e.g., Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen (155-156, 189-190), in which women disguising themselves as men give themselves away by the use of this oath.

6.  Two devoted followers of Socrates.  Apollodorus serves as the narrator of Plato’s Symposium.  Antisthenes was an early follower of the sophists but later “converted” to Socratic philosophy.

14 Responses

  1. Sis

    LOL, who would have thought Socrates was such a player, well done and he didn’t have to give her any gifts either.

  2. Escoffier

    All of this is by way of an introduction.

    Let’s begin at the beginning. Who was Xenophon?

    He was an Athenian … well, what? We don’t have categories for someone like him. So, let’s say the following. He was a philosopher, an author, a “country gentleman,” a statesman and a general. Not bad.

    We know him through his books. He wrote four Socratic works plus several other works on a variety of topics. Apart from the Socratic works, the three big ones are these. First, there is the Cyropadeia or “Education of Cyrus,” a stylized/fictionalized account of the rise of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire. It is not a biography because nearly all of it is made up. Rather, it is Xenophon’s statement of political truth or political philosophy, his “Republic” if you will. This was also, incidentally, Machiavelli’s’ favorite book. Some consider it to be “the first novel.”

    The Anabasis is a true account of an expedition Xenophon took with a later, younger and real Cyrus, a prince of Persia who recruited a bunch of Greeks (including Xenophon) to go into the heart of Persia and overthrow his brother, whereupon he would take over the throne and reward all the Greeks who helped. Well, Cyrus died doing something stupid, or at least rash, leaving the Greeks up a creek. Xenophon stepped forward and claimed the leadership and over the course of a couple of years led them back to Greece. This is considered one of the finest adventure stories of all time. The Hollywood cult film “The Warriors” is based on it.

    The Hellenica is a continuation of Thucydides that picks up at the exact moment where Thucydides ends.

    Xenophon’s Socratic works are important in part because Xenophon was one of only three people who knew Socrates personally who also wrote about him. The others were Plato (obviously) and Aristophanes. Plato wrote 35 dialogues; Socrates appears in all but one and is the central character in most. Aristophanes wrote a play in which Socrates is depicted as (literally) an intellectual with his head in the clouds, oblivious to real life as it is actually lived. These are classic works, widely studied.

    Xenophon’s Socratic works, by contrast, do not receive the same respect or attention, except by a small cadre of scholars. But for many centuries Xenophon was held in very high regard. Today however he is often compared to Plato and found wanting. While the former is rather obviously complex and “deep”, Xenophon by contrast appears simplistic. And in fact his works are simpler, but not simplistic. Through Xenophon we have easier (though not easy) access to Socrates’ thought than through Plato. E.g., there is nothing obviously bewildering like the Parmenides or Theatetus in Xenophon.

    The Memorabilia is the longest of Xenophon’s Socratic works, which causes some to consider it the most important. Not so. In fact, the most important is the Oeconomicus, or “Skilled Household Manager,” in which Xenophon depicts the famous Socratic turn from the natural things to the human things, also discussed in Plato’s Phaedo. In (very) brief, the Socrates of Aristophanes’ Clouds is what we today would call a scientist, and not just a scientist but a theoretical scientist. He is not trying to solve problems but to understand both hugely important (the nature of the heavens) as well as seemingly trivial (the flatulence of gnats) things. He pays no attention to “real life.” He is an open atheist. Indeed, simply to investigate the heavens was considered atheistic because it implied a disbelief in the theological account of natural phenomena (e.g., in the play, Socrates says that the clouds, not Zeus, are the cause of thunder).

    One of the accusations against Socrates at his trial was indeed atheism and one of the pieces of evidence was that he spent time studying natural things. In Plato’s Phaedo, which presents Socrates’ death, Socrates does indeed admit that as a young man he studied nature just like they accuse him of doing. But he then says he hit a brick wall and decided instead to study the human things, the opinions about good and bad, noble and base, and so on, to see if he could get at the truth that way. He calls this is “second sailing.” It is this “turn” that is depicted in Xenophon’s Oeconomicus and is the single most important element of Socratic, or even Greek, or I would say, of all philosophy simply.

    Socrates investigates the human things by asking people questions about their moral opinions. This is the famous dialectic. Plato’s dialogues each depict one such conversation, some very long (Republic, Laws), some very short (Clitophon), most in the middle (around 50-100 of our pages). But they are always one conversation per dialogue. Also, Plato only depicts himself as being present in one (the Apology) and he does not say anything.

    Xenophon’s Memorabilia is this unique in two key ways. First, it is narrated by Xenophon, in his own name. All the narration and commentary are Xenophon’s. Some of Plato’s dialogues are narrated (e.g., Republic) but the narrator is never Plato but a “character” of Plato. (All the people in the dialogues were real historical figures but of course the conversations are not meant to be transcripts of real conversations but rather perfected or “poetic-philosophic” accounts of characteristic or prototypical Socratic conversations).

    Second, the Memorabilia presets not just one but a series of conversations, with a variety of interlocutors on a variety of topics. Some of them seem quite mundane, like advice on how to manage finances. As noted, there is no obviously high-flown metaphysical or mathematical talk like you sometimes get in Plato.

    Finally, Xenophon’s manner of writing is so reserved that it seems almost simplistic. This is part of the reason today why so many consider him stupid. His writing is way different than our conventions which require everything to be spelled out and all things of importance bathed in neon. He seems very casual and is very subtle. All that you need to understand the text is there but he still makes you work very hard for it. It’s quite easy to skim and think you “got it” when in fact missing everything.

    So, the passage under consideration is one conversation. This is an instance of Socrates investigating the human things by inquiring into the opinions of another person. It is also one of rare conversations of Socrates with a woman in either Xenophon or Plato.

    More later.

  3. Escoffier

    OK, another sort of introductory point, which I think the readers here will appreciate.

    Xenophon’s most important Socratic dialogue is, as noted, the Oeconomicus, which means “Skilled household manager.” It is principally a dialogue between Socrates and a man named Ischomachus, who is a “gentleman,” even a perfect gentleman. Or, if we want to be super literal, the Greek is “kalos kagathos,” or “noble and good man.” The idea is, he is the ideal Greek citizen. Everything he does in his private life is virtuous, correct, and right. He manages his estate, property, wealth, wife, slaves, religious duties, everything perfectly and according to the laws.

    So Socrates goes to him to learn what it means to be a perfect gentleman in private life (the dialogue does not explore political duties). In the course of that conversation, we hear Ischomachus explain how he trains his much younger wife. (She is 15 and he is in his 40s.)

    Now, it would seem that this education or training was not all that successful. We know from another book (actually a speech by Andocides) how it all turned out. Ischomachus and his wife (Chrysilla) have a daughter, whom they marry off to one Callias. But Chrysilla left Ischomachus to become the mistress of her son-in-law. The daughter tried to hang herself in despair but was discovered and stopped. She then ran away: the mother evicted the daughter.

    Callias eventually tired of Chrysilla and kicked her out. Chrysilla, pregnant, named Callias as the father but he refused to acknowledge the son. (In ancient Athens, a child could not be enrolled as a citizen unless the father officially vouched that the kid was his.) But at some point he changed his mind, took her back, and enrolled the son. The daughter is simlpy never heard from again and Ischomachus dies, presumably unhappy, but we don’t hear about that either.

    Xenophon mentions none of this. But he expected the reader to know about it or to find it in other sources. The purpose, or one purpose, was to call into question the efficacy of Ischomachus’ training of his young wife.

    This all connected to the passage under discussion because in Xenophon and in books like Xenophon everything is connected.

  4. Escoffier

    All right, time to get into the text.

    But first …

    We are not reading the whole Memorabilia, to say nothing of the rest of Xenophon’s Socratic writings, or of Plato. So some further preliminaries might be helpful.

    It is implied from Xenophon’s remarks at the beginning of the book and from the context elsewhere that he was physically present for every conversation he described. These are his “recollections,” not hearsay accounts.

    Socrates had a very large circle, of whom Xenophon was one. The “quality” of the people who hung around Socrates varied widely, as Xenophon shows. Some of them were brilliant, some quite stupid, they ran the gamut. Xenophon himself indicates that Socrates had the highest opinion of Plato, which should not be too surprising.

    The point here is that Socrates, despite being very ugly and very poor, politically and socially irrelevant, despite having almost no “status” whatsoever, was nonetheless one of the most “attractive” people in Athens.

    Now, clearly we are not (simply) talking about sexual attraction here (though I will have more to say about that later). Rather, as noted, he always had a huge circle around him. Moreover, he sought out almost no one. Everyone came to him. Tons of people wanted to be around him—begged for his attention, even. Many of those were the “very best” people in Athens. Clearly he knows something about attraction and social dominance.

    Now, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that Socrates’ most notorious companion was Alcibiades. It’s hard to convey to a modern readership who this person was or what his status was. Athens was very small compared to even the smallest country today and yet it was a great power for its time and place. It was however small enough that everyone knew everyone else, or at least knew someone who knew everyone, and among the leading citizens, there was no degree of separation at all. That said, Alcibiades was like the JFK of his time—rich, handsome, destined for high office, known to everyone and admired/hated/envied in various combinations. For a great deal of detail on Alcibiades, see Plutarch and Thucydides. Suffice it to say that he turned out to be a very great general and political leader but erratic, untrustworthy, megalomaniacal, and a traitor. And also quite a ladies man. For instance, Plutarch reports that his wife was fed up with his infidelities and sued him for divorce. This had to be done in person. Alcibiades walked into court on the day of her hearing, kissed her on the lips, then carried her home. She lived with him until her death despite his continued infidelities.

    Anyway, Alcibiades sought out Socrates despite having an expensive education provided by his uncle Pericles. Socrates famously too no pay for his teaching and even denied being a teacher at all. He also routinely showed that the Sophists (whose business model was to teach for pay, rather large sums at that) did not know what they were talking about. See, e.g., Plato’s Protagoras and Meno for great dramatic depictions of Socrates artfully cutting the guts out of Sophistic arguments.

    One’s of Xenophon’s purposes for the Memorabilia is to defend Socrates (already dead by the time the book was written) against the charge of “corrupting the young.” He does this in a somewhat curious way. For instance, he depicts a conversation Alcibiades had with Pericles (again, his uncle, and the leading citizen of Athens), in which Alcibiades—on the basis of Socrates’ teaching—embarrasses Pericles by easily outwitting him. Not exactly a defense.

    Alcibiades was apparently in love with Socrates. Now, this is not the place to go into the tortuous question of ancient Greek homosexuality. Suffice it to say that what began as an intellectual attraction turned, for Alcibiades, into a physical attraction (despite Socrates’ notorious ugliness). But, as we learn in Plato’s Symposium, Socrates did not return Alcibiades’ physical attraction. Alcibiades as a much older mature man remained butthurt many years later over Socrates’ physical rejection of him as a young man. And, really, deep down he knew that Socrates’ rejection was not merely physical; Socrates really came to conclude that Alcibiades had bad character that no amount of Socratic education was ever going to fix so Socrates gave up on him.

    As an aside, I noted that Socrates never seems to have felt any physical attraction for any of his male students. In the Memorabilia, Xenophon quotes Socrates as calling homosexuality “shameful.” Moreover, Socrates was famously married and had children. Indeed, Plato shows in the Phaedo, which takes place on the day of Socrates’ death, that his wife Xanthippe brought his youngest child to the jail, who was little more than a baby. Socrates was 70 when he did, so he must have fathered that child in his late 60s.

    Anyway, the reason this matters is that there are implicit indications that this unnamed person who brings up Theodote and suggests they go see her is none other than Alcibiades. We know from elsewhere in Xenophon (and other sources) that Theodote was one of Alcibiades’ mistresses. No mention is made of that here. Xenophon pointedly does not say who this member of Socrates’ circle is. He appears to want to have it both ways: imply that it might be, or even probably is, Alcibiades, but also not specify, to make the point that it could have been any of them and, in a sense, all of them. When it comes to being beguiled by female beauty, men are more or less the same, the famous cads no less than the beta dorks.

    Next time I will really go into the text, I swear.

  5. Escoffier

    OK, to the text.

    Theodote was “the sort to keep company with whoever persuaded her.” As noted in the footnote, this is not a whore. The Greek word porne covers that. No, she is a hetaira, the best translation we have is “courtesan.” But that is not great because a courtesan is basically just an expensive or high-class whore. A hetaira is more like a “kept woman.” The “contract” is implicit, never explicit. She benefits materially but there is no price list or anything. Moreover, she is also sort of like a geisha, that is, expected to be very intelligent and charming and socially adept. You are getting the whole package, not just sex. Hetaira were famously up on art, politics and philosophy, unlike the average Athenian woman, who had basically no education at all beyond home economics.

    Note that she keeps company only with those who “persuade” her. Money is not enough. You have to have something else and whether you do or not, that is entirely up to her. This was emphatically not the case for the typical Athenian wife, who was betrothed by her family and had no say in the matter. So, game of some form is essential to winning the favor of a hetaira.

    Note also that the idea to go to see her does not arise with Socrates. Someone else brings it up. Socrates doesn’t care and would rather do other things. At least, he does not seek her out without being prompted. Note also the phrase “one of those who were present.” Xenophon makes reference here to Socrates’ famous circle. Xenophon himself presumably was among them, a group of males who constantly hung around Socrates conversing with him, some who truly could learn from him, others who just sensed his brilliance and wanted to be around him. The implication here is that Socrates is happy with this circle—talking philosophy with men—but one of the men in this circle is not so happy. He is restless. He wants to go see the beautiful woman. His soul is distracted.

    Look at his reasons for wanting to go: 1) her beauty is said to surpass speech; 2) painters visit her to draw her likeness and she is partially disrobed. Looking more closely at reason one, “speech” is logos, or reason or argument. That is, the word is used here in a double sense to mean speech simply but also the act of reasoning or philosophizing. This person, whoever he is, is more interested in Theodote’s beauty than he is in speech, or in the characteristic philosophic conversation between Socrates and his circle of companions. He would rather look at pretty girls than philosophize. His soul is not quite so refined.

    Now, before someone says that this is “shaming men,” no, not really. The point is more that Xenophon and Socrates both recognize that the truly philosophic soul is a rare thing. And fully exploring the complex issues and living a life devoted to philosophy requires extraordinary discipline and continence. In fact, a great part of the Memorabilia is dedicated to showing Socrates’ extraordinary continence. That continence is perhaps more to be admired than imitated—Socrates is often shown to be almost superhuman, for instance in his tolerance for heat and cold, his ability to drink without ever getting drunk, his total disregard for material wealth, his ability to stand or sit for hours at a time doing nothing but thinking. Clearly a soul like this is one in a million, if it’s even that common. Not everyone can match Socrates’ extraordinary continence.

    In another section of the Memorabilia (I 3.8-15), Xenophon recounts one of only two of his own conversations with Socrates (by comparison, this is something Plato never does). As it happens, that conversation is about erotic attraction. Socrates chastises Xenophon for admitting that he (Xenophon) would very much like to kiss someone beautiful. Socrates indeed says that you don’t even have to kiss someone for them to make you crazy; even looking at someone beautiful can do it. The Xenophon recounts Socrates’ general advice that, “those who were not out of danger regarding sex”—presumably the highly erotic and those highly attracted to the beautiful—should have sex only “with the sort whom the soul would accept only if it were in great need,” presumable, the ugly. But Socrates himself, Xenophon says, was immune to the charms of the beautiful.

    So we see in that passage a rather cavalier attitude about non-marital sex. Socrates’ primary concern seems to be that men not let sexual desire rule their reason or get them into trouble. (I say “men” here because there were no women in Socrates’ philosophic circle and, from the historical record, we have very few—three, if I remember correctly—accounts of Socrates even talking to women at all. Though he does sometimes talk about women.) Anyway, Socrates recognizes the power of the male sex drive and he acknowledges the legitimacy of his boys’ need to satisfy it. But his advice is, screw the ugly because they won’t preoccupy your mind and get in the way of your studies. As noted above, Socrates was not chaste, we know he had children, even very late in life, but he apparently could control himself to a superhuman degree. He did not expect the same level of control from his followers but he did urge them to be as continent as possible. The idea of “pouring your passion” into a divinely sanctioned marriage seems not to have held much appeal for him. I suppose there is an echo here of St. Paul, who advises men with the wherewithal to remain chaste not to get married but to focus on God, but concedes that for some men this is not a wise choice, and these men should get married. But despite this echo, there are clear and important differences.

    OK, let’s look at one other relevant passage from elsewhere in Xenophon. This one is from the Cyropaedia or “Education of Cyrus,” which I mentioned before. “Cyrus” is based on Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, but is really a fictional vehicle Xenophon embellishes to illustrated his ideas. At one point, Cyrus takes a bunch of prisoners, among them one Panthea, a very beautiful woman and the wife of an enemy general. One of the things that made Cyrus successful was his liberality with captured booty, which included women and slaves. He gave of this stuff freely to his officers and men, which is one reason why they were so loyal to him. (Machiavelli makes much of this lesson in Prince 17). Cyrus’ lieutenants are very impressed by Panthea’s beauty so they save her for the boss. He asks one of his top men, Araspes, to go check her out, and Araspes comes back very effusively talking up her beauty. At which point Cyrus declares that he dare not even go and look at her lest he allow himself to be distracted from his important work.

    So you see the contrast right there. Socrates is immediately willing to go see Theodote. He knows there is no danger of himself being distracted. Cyrus also knows himself very well, but he is more like Xenophon than like Socrates in that he is genuinely attracted to the attractive, so much so that it might get in the way of his work. This is a form of continence, but it is a continence unlike Socrates’. Socrates’ is closer to indifference. He genuinely prefers what he is doing (philosophy) to beautiful women, so he can look at beautiful women without danger. Cyrus also prefers what he is doing (politics) to beautiful women but he lacks the self-control to resist the beautiful when in their presence, or even to keep his mind clear. So he must resort to the “blunt force” of avoiding their presence altogether. This is a form of self-control but one that is lesser than Socrates’. This is (but one) of Xenophon’s many hints that the impoverished philosopher is ultimately a greater figure, or if you will a higher ranking soul, than the ruler of the world’s largest empire.

    The story goes on from there by the way. Cyrus and Araspes have a long conversation about Panthea in particular and beauty in general. Araspes takes the position that, in essence, “attraction is a choice” and that any man should be able to control his passion even in the face of great beauty. Cyrus counters that often human passions are stronger than human will. One has more control over circumstances than over one’s own heart, so it is best to contrive circumstances so as to put the heart in the least amount of danger. Love was the most dangerous passion of all, Cyrus said. “No strength of moral principle, no firmness of purpose, no fixedness of resolution, no degree of suffering, no fear of shame, was sufficient to control, in the hearts of men, the impetuosity of the passion of love, when it is once fairly awakened.”

    Cyrus gets the last laugh. He puts Panthea in Araspes’ care, pending the return of her husband, whom they had not captured in battle. Araspes is very arrogant in insisting there is no danger. But he falls in love with her all the same and pleads with her to have sex with him. She will not. Cyrus sends Araspes on a far-off foreign mission. Long story short, her husband becomes an ally of Cyrus in part out of gratitude for his maintaining her chastity. He dies in a battle fighting on Cyrus’ behalf. Panthea kills herself in despair after. Now that’s loyalty!

    OK, more later.

  6. Escoffier

    A couple more points of context.

    First, this conversation is part of a series of conversations recounted in the book, which take up Book III. The “peak” as it were is in the center, where Xenophon points do—but does not present—a Socratic conversation with Plato. (There is no such conversation in any of the Platonic dialogues either.) The “peak” is alluded to but not stated.

    After that, there begins a descent. The Theodote passage occurs after conversations with a “real man” and an ordinary man (the difference is in the Greek, aner v. anthropos), implying a descent.

    Also, this is to be contrasted with prior conversations in which Socrates simply had recounted to him what another had said. Even given the opportunity to go meet that person, he declined. He could learn all he needed to know from hearsay.

    But he does willingly lead his circle to view this beautiful woman, despite the dangers outlined above. Beauty that surpasses speech must be seen; hearsay is not enough. Socrates can learn everything he needs to know about this or that man and his art simply from being told (or perhaps from reading). But to appreciate whatever it is Theodote has to offer, he must see her in the flesh.

    To Socrates, this may be an especially important point. To him, the logos—speech, words—are really the core of his life. They are the core of philosophy and hence the gateway to truth, to that specific bliss of which he is capable and which he believes is the highest way of life for a man. So, something that surpasses speech must then surpass this pinnacle of human life. I think Socrates is being playful here—and remember, he is not the one who said that her beauty surpassed speech; his companion said that. Socrates is willing to have a look because he is willing to test every proposition. That is the hallmark of the philosopher. I don’t think he really expects to discover that Theodote’s looks in fact do surpass speech. But he is well aware that most men will see her that way.

    One more call-back to an earlier passage. When discussing continence, Socrates tells the story of Hercules at around age 18 having to choose between virtue and vice. They both come in the guise of tall women. Vice is dressed gaudily, with makeup, and looked in every way wanton. Virtue was dressed modestly, had a modest gait, and gave the appearance of health without cosmetics. Note here that neither Xenophon nor Socrates ever says what Theodote looks like. She is simply not described. That could be because her beauty does indeed surpass speech: she has to be “seen to believed.” But it could also be because it doesn’t matter: whatever she looks like, there are more like her, so why bother describing her. Her individual looks just don’t matter.

    I suppose that Xenophon means to indicate both ideas at once. To man like the companion who suggests the visit, her beauty truly cannot be captured in speech so why bother? But to a man like Socrates, her beauty does not affect him, hence it’s immaterial.

    But as noted there is danger. Perhaps not to Socrates himself, but Socrates elsewhere explicitly warns Xenophon about even looking at the beautiful. But now he is exposing his whole gang to the danger. Presumably, then, he has a plan for averting that danger. He is going to change their perception of beauty, of women, and of Theodote in order to protect his friends, and also make them better men.

    Note also that the one who had the idea to go to Theodote (whether Alcibiades or someone else) says “Hurry up and follow.” He is very impatient to go. He is in the grip of passion, or of longing or eros. Longing or eros can be for many things and Socrates often uses it to describe his feelings about wisdom: he feels eros for wisdom. But this person, whoever he is, is more conventional. His eros is for carnality or, if you want to be more high-minded about it, physical beauty.

    Nonetheless, Socrates not only accedes to his wishes but seems eager about it. When they arrive, they find her standing for a painter. From the prior paragraph we know that she “displayed as much of herself as it was noble to display.” That is, she posed partially disrobed, but within limits. We may suppose that she went further than societal convention deemed acceptable for normal circumstances, but stopped short of outright shocking conventional mores.

    Socrates says nothing to, or about, the painter. He is uninterested in him. He waits until the painter is gone and the speaks, not to Theodote, but to his “crew.” In game terms, we may see in the following comment both the concepts of “re-frame” and “demonstrate higher value.” We may also describe what Socrates says here as a “preemptive strike” on Theodote’s hamster.

    Here’s what he says: “Men, should we be more grateful to Theodote for displaying to us her beauty, or she to us because we beheld? If the display is more beneficial to her, is it for her to be grateful to us, while if the beholding is more beneficial to us, for us to be grateful to her?”

    The implicit notion that is being challenged here is that Theodote is benefiting them. Her whole “business model” takes that for granted. This shouldn’t even be a question. Just raising as a question, Socrates shows how radical his approach is. Theodote assumes that her beauty is a benefit to everyone whom she allows to see it. Socrates has instantly put her on the defensive, forcing her to think about a question she has probably not ever even raised in her own mind. Moreover, he has raised the possibly that SHE might owe something to THEM, and not for tangible benefits received—for she has gotten nothing from them (yet)—but merely for their looking at her. This thought surely has never crossed her mind before and must be completely bewildering.

    As noted, also, Socrates is not speaking to her but to his crew. That’s a little dig right there, talking about her right in front of her. But it’s also a DHV. He’s demonstrating his dominance over his circle of followers. He’s showing that he’s their leader. Moreover, she’s not even in the circle—the implication being, she has not yet shown herself worthy. She can’t answer the question he has asked impartially, so it must be asked of others. She will have to learn a thing or two before she can join the conversation.

  7. Escoffier

    Meant to specifically call out the “scarcity mentality” but forgot. See how the companions initially we may say “pedestalize” Theodote because they think beauty is rare and precious. But Socrates does not. I think that one of the reasons she is not described (as were Virtue and Vice in the Heracles passage) is to make the point that she is not that special, not unique. There are more like her.

  8. Escoffier

    One point that I don’t think I brought out clearly enough. I believe this passage is meant to be a parody of Socrates and his circle that also reveals through the details and the little differences. Recall that Theodote is “the sort to keep company with whoever persuaded her.” This implies that she has a lot of suitors and that she turns away many, or even most.

    Well, the same was true of Socrates. Many wanted to keep company with him (even some in a sexual way). He was followed around and pursued a lot. But he did not converse with everyone who wanted to talk to him but only to those he chose to converse with. Could Socrates be persuaded? Not clear if he could or if he simply had to choose you. But Xenophon clearly shows that Socrates was pursued, mostly by confused but well-meaning people who thought that he could give them answers to the deepest questions.

    So one thing he is making clear up front is that he is a lot like Theodote: he is in demand. Plus, his followers defer to him. Nonetheless, she is a potential rival to Socrates, as we have seen. At least one companion is more eager to see her than to talk with Socrates. And more than one companion goes with him so presumably many are very interested in seeing her and, at least for the moment, more interested than they are in philosophic conversation.

    OK, Socrates has posed a two-part question:

    1) Who should be more grateful, we men or Theodote?
    2) To whom is the display more beneficial, us or Theodote?

    The answer to part two determines the answer to part one.

    “Someone”—we don’t know who, it could be one of Socrates’ companions, but not necessarily—says that what Socrates has said is just. That is, this person did not attempt to answer the question but rather simply affirmed the justness of the question. But even that affirmation of the justice of the question has meaning because, as I noted last time, the question itself implies that Theodote’s worldview is wrong. In her world, this should not even be a question: the men benefit and should be grateful, full stop. Calling that into question is the first step toward undermining and refuting it.

    Which is what Socrates proceeds to do.

    Socrates answers his own question. Theodote gains from their praise (although Xenophon has not reported any praise; perhaps they said it and Xenophon left it out; or perhaps their praise is implicit, say, in drooling looks?). She gains from their praise presumably because hearing oneself praised is pleasant. But she is being praised merely for how she looks, which is to some extent art or effort on her part but mostly the gift of nature. Is Xenophon here saying something about human or specifically female nature? Viz., that it tends to vanity, and that it enjoys being praised for things it did not earn?

    Be this as it may, Socrates goes on to say that moreover she will benefit as they tell others what they saw, who will want to come see her (and, by implication, perhaps become clients). Interesting this line, in that Socrates implies that it is in fact possible to recount her beauty in speech otherwise how could they spread the word to others?

    Also, note here what Socrates is doing. He’s not really denying that they benefit from looking at her. He is saying that they return the favor with praise and by spreading the word. He takes what could be considered a symbiotic or mutually beneficial transaction and emphasizing only one side of the benefit. Theodote, as will be clear, does not pick up on this trick. Perhaps she is not that smart.

    The next clause is very interesting and seems to imply a harm, not a benefit, to the men: they are already excited, want to touch what they have seen, and will go away longing for it. Socrates notably does not exclude himself from this observation. So perhaps he does feel something for her after all but is just better able to control it. Socrates concludes that “it is possible” that the men serve and Theodote receives service.

    This points to, or hints at, one of the deep questions that is common in Socratic philosophy: what is truly a benefit, or what is truly good? Most men deeply desire beautiful women just as Socrates’ companions all want to touch Theodote. They would no doubt consider it a great benefit to themselves if they could touch her (or more). But is it really? Not if it makes you go nuts.

    Remember the passages I discussed from elsewhere in the Memorabilia, the Oeconomicus and especially Cyropadeia. Kissing someone beautiful can lead to self-forgetting madness. Or, in game terms, “one-itis.” Araspes does not even touch Panthea and he develops a doozy of a case of one-itis. Socrates knows this is a danger he tries to protect his men from it. One way he does that is by knocking Theodote down a peg (or two).

    But back to the deeper point, a benefit is not a benefit if it harms you, in spite of its being what you (think you) deeply desire. This is hashed out in great detail in Plato’s Republic, Meno and Gorgias (above all); the upshot being the seemingly perverse Socratic teaching that all wrongdoing is committed out of ignorance and that the most unhappy man is the unpunished tyrant. For a recent example of this exact dynamic, see this comment thread at Heartiste:

    Heartiste gets it wrong and Matt King gets it right.

    OK, Theodote responds with an oath and affirms Socrates’ turning of the tables: she should be grateful for being beheld. Having to agree is surprising to her, hence the oath. She has arrived there as it were unwillingly. Socrates’ reframe is successful and we may say that he just also succeeded in his first compliance test. He got her to agree to something ostensibly against her interest and her will. Or is it really against her interests? Perhaps not, if by listening to Socrates and (as it were) submitting to him she is somehow benefitted.

  9. Escoffier

    I said before that even raising the question—who benefits more from us men looking?—was subversive, a challenge to the dynamic that Theodote takes for granted. That is true but the truth is deeper still. Theodote is in a sense a “witch” whose beauty and manners cast a spell. Her beauty surpasses speech or overcomes speech. The implication being, you cannot argue with her beauty, reason is powerless before it. Much the way that Araspes fooled himself into thinking his reason could withstand the beauty of Panthea.

    But by immediately subjecting Theodote’s charms to logos or dialectic, Socrates as it were prevents the spell from being cast. He forces her from the outset to play on his turf by his rules. She goes along … why? I think the answer, or part of the answer, is that he frames himself as dominant. She is not used to that. She is used to being supplicated. Remember that she spends time with “those who persuade her.” They are in a sense applicants. They pursue, she decides. But Socrates flips that script immediately. She is not used to that. She may even be turned on. We know that, despite his ugliness, Socrates was capable of instilling sexual attraction in others, purely through his speech and manners. So keep that in mind.

    Remember also that a hetaira is not a whore. It’s not simply a matter of money. Yes, there is persuasion. But also, there is no overt contract of any kind. Her allure depends in part on the ambiguity of what she is and what she is doing. When a man gives her gifts, is he paying for a service or merely thanking her for companionship and love, the way a man thanks his wife or GF with jewelry? The distinction can be very fine and hard to spot. But the ambiguity is essential to Theodote. Both to her own social status (plausible deniability that she is a whore) and because the kind of man she wants to attract—high status—will be less likely to go to a whore than to a hetaira who, again, offers not just her but him plausible deniability (even to himself) that she is his “girlfriend.”

    Dialectic threatens this ambiguity. Socrates is proposing here an in-depth accounting of who she is and what she does. That can’t be in her interest as a logical inquiry into her methods would totally demystify her “spell”. Here is yet another indication that her beauty really does not surpass speech: at least not Socrates’ speech. As the conversation will show, he is able to understand her and her methods better than she understands herself. Speech in the end does win a victory over beauty. Moreover he will teach her things about her own craft that she at present does not know. So she really will be in his debt by the time the conversation is over.

    But all that is merely hinted at this point. Indeed, Socrates disguises how much he knows by playing a little dumb. He notices Theodote’s expensive clothes. Her mother is there—which is itself interesting, the mother living with the courtesan daughter. No disapproval, apparently, but rather a willingness to share in the spoils. Also Theodote has many maid servants who are good looking. Everything—and everyone—is attractive and expensive. How can she afford this? Well, he knows how but he plays a game.

    What follows at this point is a kind of small parody of a Socratic dialogue in which Socrates asks a series of questions for which he presumably already knows the answers. Does she own this or that source of income? He asks about three things, she has none of them. So where does her income come from?

    “If someone who has become my friend wants to treat men well,” she said, “he is my livelihood.”

    This is funny because it’s rather the way that Socrates himself lived. He was dirt poor and didn’t work. He had extremely modest needs that were apparently taken care of by his friends. He lived nothing so lavishly as Theodote’s household is here described. But it does appear that he was essentially a mooch. He needed his friends. Was the transaction otherwise the same?

    Now Socrates uses and oath, a female oath. I explained how unusual this was in the footnote to the text. Socrates had mentioned three ways of gaining wealth: owning a farm, owning a household with revenues, or owning artisans (slaves). Now he says that a herd of friends is worth more than livestock. He is being playful here, referring ostensibly to her wealth, but no doubt at root he also believes it, that his true friends are worth more to him than the greatest fortune.

    Next he asks how she gets these friends: does she wait for chance does she try to get them through some art? The allusion to the fly brings to mind a spider’s web. Remember that when Socrates had chastised Xenophon for the desire to kiss someone beautiful he likened it to being bit by a spider.

    Theodote professes not to know how to entrap men, implying that she gets all her “friends” by chance. Standing around looking beautiful, partially covered, like she did for the painter, probably is one good method for attracting “friends.”

    Socrates chastises her for not knowing her business. When Socrates says “it falls much more to you” to make contrivances than to spiders, that is a multi-layered rebuke. She in effect depends on wholly on her looks and on chance: chance will get the men into view and then her looks will do the rest. This is not optimal, Socrates says. He implies that she is cheating herself or not realizing her full value. Note also the implication that beautiful women can afford to be unreflective and lazy.

    But also he is saying, consider the poor quality of men you must be getting this way. The spider just takes whatever fly lands. You should be more discriminating. Also, the spider eats the fly. Socrates is implying that Theodote is a parasite or a villain of some sort. This gets back to the point about who benefits. Certainly the fly never benefits. So can any of the men who fall into Theodote’s web be said to benefit? Socrates, with this unflattering example, implies “no.”

    Theodote asks if he is recommended that she weave a net. Socrates says of course not, even though that appeared to be clear implication of what he had been saying, that the spiders know more and do better than she does (she who does nothing but wait, the spiders also wait but at least they weave a web). So once again he bewilders her and puts her back on the defensive. She’s just been rebuked for not doing enough, when she asks if she should do the specific thing that he himself has brought up, he says no. More than that, he even calls it “artless” once again implying that she is not so smart if she even considered that as good advice for herself. Weaving webs won’t work with friends.

    Then he goes through a hunting analogy. Now, Xenophon was himself an expert hunter and wrote a short work on hunting which is still extant. Perhaps he taught Socrates the details of what Socrates is talking about here. Anyway, the analogy is about rabbits, “which are worth very little.” Rabbit hunters take more care with contrivances to catch worthless rabbits than Theodote does to catch valuable friends.

    Once again, the hunter, like the spider, is indiscriminate. He just wants a lot of hares. Another unflattering comparison to Theodote. Nor does it stop there. Rabbits graze at night and run away by day. Perhaps a reference to the habits of her typical client, who want her services by night but tend to stay away by day? That is, they don’t really want her company. Or, only a certain kind of company. She is not “wife material.”

    To catch rabbits one needs, apparently, three kinds of dogs plus some nets. Theodote asks if this is what she will need to catch friends. Socrates says that instead of dogs, she needs a certain kind of person “who will track and find for you those who love beauty and are rich, and who, after finding them, will contrive to throw them into your nets.” In other words, Socrates is saying she needs a pimp. It’s worth pointing here to another of Xenophon’s Socratic works, the Symposium (yes, he wrote one with the same title as the more famous work by Plato, but it’s a totally different work). At one point in that short dialogue, each participant is to say of what he is the most proud. When it’s Socrates’ turn, he says his skill at pimping. This gets a big laugh.

    OK, back to the Memorabilia. Note the blunt explicitness about the kind of friends she wants: there are only two criteria: love beauty and are rich. He says nothing about any intrinsic qualities of these friends. Socrates himself is of course far, far more discriminating about his friends. Theodote in the end has very modest needs: really, just one, wealth, because her friends’ love of beauty is for her just a means of separating them from their wealth.

    What net do I have, she asks. At this point I think it’s relatively clear that she is playing coy, pretending to be totally innocent about who she is and what she does. She couldn’t possibly be this oblivious to how she makes her living. She has a good reason to pretend though, as being too clear—again—erodes her “business model.” The “transaction” must not seem like a transaction, or else she is just another whore, with all the loss of status (and money) that entails.

    Your body: another blunt answer. And then a reference to what we might call “girl game”: she needs to learn how to gratify with a look and delight with what she says. Presumably as a hetaira she’s already good at this but Socrates plays along with her playing dumb. He assumes that her “girl game” is in fact not very tight. This is yet another thing the middle aged ugly (but wise) man can teach the beautiful woman. Actually, what he is doing is laying bare her methods. Something that cannot make her all too happy. Remember, there is an audience of men here, some of them potential clients! Plus, Socrates has already said that they are going to spread the word about her. What will they say?

  10. Escoffier

    Now here is the part that the sphere will probably say is wrong. But let’s look at it. Socrates goes on to say that she needs to distinguish between the “attentive” and the “spoiled” and welcome the one and shut out the other. He goes on in this vein, basically, choose eager men who are really into you. But note that this is his advice to HER, not to the men courting her. And as we shall see, there is difference between what he says and how he acts. He himself does not come to her all attentive and eager. ON that score it’s rather obviously good advice. If you wanted to help a mercenary woman, you’d help her identify the easiest marks. This is how Socrates pimps.

    Note this very delicate sentence: “I know very well that you know how to love, at any rate, in a manner not only soft but also well intentioned; and as to the fact that your friends are best for you, I know that you convince not only by speech but by deed.”

    Socrates is showing that her pretense of ignorance is phony. The last clause in particular will sting the most, because the deed in question must mean sexual intercourse. No wonder she reacts rather hotly. She denies everything. But it’s a hollow denial. He has already won and they both know it. Massive DHV and dominance display right there.

    So he throws her a soft one, saying that one captures friends not by violence but by benefaction and pleasure. She can readily agree with that, because it puts the “nicest” spin on her business model. She gives benefaction and pleasure. Everybody wants those things!

    Now Socrates begins to get specific. The gist of the next paragraph is, manipulate men into wanting you (her), by being stingy with favors. Not necessarily playing hard to get. Socrates specifically tells her to meet men part way. But not be wholly available too early. In other words, push-pull. First induce hunger, then slowly satisfy it. Reminds one of Machiavelli’s teaching (P 8 and D I 45) that benefits should be given out little by little but cruelties done at one stroke (ad uno tratto).

    Pleasant things are not enjoyed, or not as much, if they are gotten too easily, or if the receiver is already sated.

    Theodote plays innocent again: how can she induce such hunger?

    First, stop paying attention to those who are sated. Good message for all beta orbiters out there! Take a step back! Then he recommends push-pull almost word-for-word: induce desire, flee, wait to be chased. Stir his desire to a fever pitch.

    Socrates has now made his sale. Theodote asks for his help in hunting friends. Socrates says that she must persuade him first. The tables have fully turned. At the beginning, recall, she was the one who needed to be persuaded. Well, Socrates has accomplished that and more. He has not merely persuaded her, he has created in her exactly the desire (for him) that he is recommending she create in others (for herself).

    She does not know how to persuade him, she protests. I think she is being honest here. She really does not know. She is beguiled by him, an emotion she is surely not used to. She may realize on some level what has happened to her but she does not know how to recreate that feeling in others. She wants to know—and not just for her business but so that she can continue to be with Socrates. I was not kidding when I said that, despite his ugliness, he was the most attractive man in Athens. And what made him such was his soul as revealed through his speech.

    What’s especially telling here is that the one whose “beauty surpasses speech” is the one most in need of speech. Her beauty cannot snare Socrates. She needs speech to do that. Speech supersedes her beauty and we may say turns out to be necessary for the full utilization of her beauty.

    Socrates attempts to buck her up by saying that if she really needs him, she will figure out a way to persuade him. But note that he does not directly answer her request to teach her the art of persuasion. This is telling, I think. It shows that Socrates too must be persuaded, and she has failed. Lots of people wanted to hang around him and learn what he had to teach—remember that, among other honors, the oracle at Delphi had said that Socrates was the wisest of the Greeks (Plato’s Apology, 20e-21a). Socrates was in demand. But he would not converse with just anyone. And some, he would converse with once and then never talk with again.

    There’s an obvious parallel here to SMP mis-matches. We may say that being admitted to Socrates’ circle is akin to a marriage or an LTR. Having a few conversations with him is like a fling or STR. One would be a ONS. And idiots whom he would not talk to at all were omegas. Well, on those terms Socrates is willing to P&D Theodote but that’s about all. She wants in to his circle, to spend more time with him, but he’s not interested. He is way out of her league.

    She implores him to visit often. No doubt, for her, that is the highest praise she can give, saying basically, “I am available to you at any time.” But he demurs. Xenophon here specifically says that Socrates’ response is a joke: Socrates—the notorious man who seems to do no work whatsoever—says that he lacks leisure. Then he adds that he has this circle of “female friends” who will not leave him day or night.

    This is puzzling since this is literally the ONLY conversation in all of Xenophon where Socrates speaks with a female. We have one other in Plato (the Menexenus, where he speaks to Aspasia, hetaira/mistress of Pericles). So who are these females?

    Surely Socrates is here making a joke about his circle of followers. Who are, I hasten to add, all male. So why call them females? I am speculating here, but on a base level it’s a little dig at Theodote, to arouse some jealously and to reinforce her feelings of pre-selection. Certainly, it fits that particular game teaching.

    But on a deeper level, I think Socrates is saying that, in terms of intersexual dynamics, in his circle, he is the dominant alpha and they are all subordinate. In effect, he is the alpha-stud of his intellectual harem and his followers are all basically concubines.

    He says that his female companions spend their time learning love charms and incantations from him. Another joke, no doubt, but with a kernel of truth. The implication is that what he has declined to teach to Theodote—the art of persuasion—he is in fact willing to teach to others. That’s a dis on her, assuming she picks up on it.

    Which seems doubtful. Rather, she seems to see an opportunity: for what could be more useful to her than love charms and incarnations? She wants to know how to use those.

    Socrates affirm that he knows how and cites his circle as proof. He cites four men, two we may say are always around but are maybe not the brightest bulbs while two others come from afar to be with him and are more able to understand his core teaching. Theodote apparently ranks below all of these four. And, no mention here is made of a truly first-rate friend such as Plato or Xenophon, to whom she would not even come close to comparing.

    She asks for the spell and he declines, outright this time. He says he wants her to come to him. Textbook game, I need hardly add.

    She says she will and then submissively adds, as if pleading, that she be received.

    And he says … maybe. If no other female dearer than her is inside. Ouch! I don’t think I need to explain the gamey elements of that reply!

    I will try to go through some concluding thoughts tomorrow.

  11. Höllenhund

    You’ll probably find this piece of tradcon nonsense familiar:

  12. Matthew King

    Howdy. I appreciate your measured interpretation of me over on Dalrock’s blog.

    I can assure you, I have no penchant for “delet[ing] the rest of the people who participate in these blogs from any meaningful participation in the movement,” or for “deleting” anybody (as I have been erased!).

    “[B]roken divorced guys, or loser faggots and sissies and so on” are my people. I want to minister to them. I think fellows who play to their victimhood are not doing them a service. I also don’t think purging is necessary. A good readership and comment section largely polices itself, and trolls fade. I myself could see I was gaining no traction and, at the end, offered no opinion except to those who directly referenced me by name.

    He told me to get off his lawn, to go get my own yard party. My suggestion was for him to leverage his achievement, make his blog an adjunct to a larger project — not unlike what Mars Hill Church has done — rather than allowing words to substitute for action.

    I don’t know how many different ways I can tell you I am on your side and want everything you want. A disagreement over strategy is no reason to get defensive and paranoid about my comparatively minuscule influence.

    And no, this is not about establishing a rival fanclub to show the blogosphere how it’s done. It is about finding peers who do not need a kick in the ass or much remedial deprogramming to network and partner with. I am focusing on leadership to help inspire “the rest of the people” out of their despair, rather than giving them daily reasons to wallow in misfortune. For all their immaturity and hedonism and even nihilism, this is what the PUAs get that those who claim the name “Christian” do not. To go out and preach, yes, as the Savior commands, but also to practice what we preach and reap a harvest for the Lord.


  13. Höllenhund

    Nova, you should delete all the spam advertisements from the comment sections.

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