31 December 2012

The last piece of bad prose of 2012...

...from Paul Johnson's Socrates: A Man for Our Times (Penguin, 2011) in a brief discussion of why Socrates would have been "fascinated" (48) by the Parthenon project of Pericles and Phidias:

"By minute deviations from straight lines working in conjunction with arcs of wide radials in all three planes, by a slight upward curvature of the stylobate, echoes in the entablature, by thickened corner columns and double contractions of corner intercolumniations, and by other such devices the Parthenon was made to seem more 'real' and was given a sense of movement" (50).

Now, I KNOW what he's talking about, and I still got the lost the first two times I read that sentence! 

Then again, the whole book simply gets silly sometimes, like, while arguing Socrates surely must have hated slavery and surely must have "habitually questioned the justice of slavery in his conversations" (134), so much so, in fact, that Johnson surmises that, "Perhaps there is a missing dialogue, which was 'suppressed' by subsequent generations simply by the failure to have it copied -- the fate of many works society found insupportable" (133).   Yes, indeed, there MUST be a missing anti-slavery dialogue to go along with the ones against taxation without representation and drunk driving. 

When all else fails (or when there really aren't enough biographical details to write a complete biography), just make stuff up.

But then again Johnson calls Phaedo "Plato's finest work," so what can we really expect (173)?

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I'm just glad I finished it before 2013!

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