Poseideon / XV Kal. Jan. / St Flannan (7th century) / December the 18th: Knowledge and Wisdom

I start things off short and sweet, with the best thing I read today. It’s a fragment from Heraclitus, number forty in the Diels-Kranz collection (the authoritative collection of fragments of the Greek philosophers before Socrates, called Fragmente der Vorsokratiker):

πολυμαθίη νόον οὐ διδάσκει.

Science does not teach sense.

The translations will always be mine, of course, since the excerpta (“blossoms plucked”) on this site are from my own reading of the day. In this translation I went for “science” to render polymathia (whence we get “polymathy”). One might have said “knowledge of many things” and been more accurate in one sense, but less accurate in translating the economy of the original expression.

There’s much more to a good or correct translation than what some like to call “literal”, an appellation which even calls for discussion itself.

I thought this would be a good inaugural post because it’s a good γνῶθι σεαυτόν to someone making a blog, especially one which demonstrates knowledge.

Speaking of that, here I’ll mention the passage of Thucydides that was beaten out for the programmatic post, from Pericles’ funeral oration in Book 2 of Thuc.’s History of the Peloponnesian War (the inspiration for Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”):

φιλοκαλοῦμεν τε γὰρ μετ’ εὐτελείας καὶ φιλοσοφοῦμεν ἄνευ μαλακίας

We are lovers of the beautiful, then, but with economy, and we are lovers of wisdom without lacking resolution.

How does one record one’s polymathy without boasting of one’s polymathy? The purpose is not demonstration, but record, and you, dear reader, should you ever find me, are the gadfly of my discipline. Thanks.



About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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