Plato Philebus

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Derek Filiorum
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Plato Philebus

Post by Derek Filiorum » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:44 pm

Hi there, I need help with the following verb form, to be found in Plato's Philebus where he criticizes τῶν ἐν ταῖς γενέσεσιν ἀποτελουμένων, that is, 'those who find their fulfilment/those whose life's fulfilment is in processes of becoming. (Phil. 54e1-2, trans. Frede/Gosling) I see how it is supposed to work, but what exactly is the middle form of the verb ἀποτελέω doing here? They fulfil, perform, bring to an end etc. themselves? Thanks for some help! Best wishes, D.

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Re: Plato Philebus

Post by anphph » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:59 pm

I suspect it's passive. Present has identical medio-passive endings. Those who are fulfilled by/in the process of becoming. Medium voice could also be possible, in which case it'd probably be something like those who fulfill themselves by/in the process of becoming, or, those who in becoming find their fulfillment.

EDIT: Now that I think of it, the translation you're quoting reads it as medium, hence the "find their life's purpose". But grammatically it could go either way.

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Re: Plato Philebus

Post by cb » Sat Feb 03, 2018 10:29 pm

Hi, agreed with the above. Just to add my thoughts, I think ἀποτελουμένων is more likely to be middle than passive in Phileb. 54e, although it's a fuzzy line between the middle and the other voices in many cases.

ἀποτελέω is a denominative (formed from the noun τέλος with the pre-verb ἀπο-) and so, as a denominative, can mean "to do" or "to be" the sense of the noun τέλος, and so it's clear enough where the sense of fulfilment in ἀποτελέω comes from.

In Phileb. 54e, where Protarchus asks Socrates whom he means by οἱ ἐν ταῖς γενέσεσιν ἀποτελούμενοι, Socrates goes on to give a description which seems to echo Callicles' description of the good as pleasure in the Gorgias (which Socrates then knocks down by essentially showing that the good and the bad can't be co-present, whereas pleasure and pain can be co-present, and so the good can't be pleasure).

There, Socrates uses ἀποτελέω in the active with as its object a pronoun representing τὰς ἐπιθυμίας, in Gorg. 503c-d:
εἰ ἔστιν γε, ὦ Καλλίκλεις, ἣν πρότερον σὺ ἔλεγες ἀρετήν, ἀληθής, τὸ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ἀποπιμπλάναι καὶ τὰς αὑτοῦ καὶ τὰς τῶν ἄλλων: εἰ δὲ μὴ τοῦτο, ἀλλ᾽ ὅπερ ἐν τῷ ὑστέρῳ λόγῳ ἠναγκάσθημεν ἡμεῖς ὁμολογεῖν—ὅτι αἳ μὲν τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν πληρούμεναι βελτίω ποιοῦσι τὸν ἄνθρωπον, [503d] ταύτας μὲν ἀποτελεῖν, αἳ δὲ χείρω, μή, τοῦτο δὲ τέχνη τις εἴη—τοιοῦτον ἄνδρα τούτων τινὰ γεγονέναι οὐκ ἔχω ἔγωγε πῶς εἴπω.

The passive of ἀποτελέω, however, agrees with αἱ ἐπιθυμίαι (i.e. with the desire itself, rather than the person fulfilled) in Rep. 558d-e:
βούλει οὖν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, ἵνα μὴ σκοτεινῶς διαλεγώμεθα, πρῶτον ὁρισώμεθα τάς τε ἀναγκαίους ἐπιθυμίας καὶ τὰς μή; — βούλομαι, ἦ δ᾽ ὅς. — οὐκοῦν ἅς τε οὐκ ἂν οἷοί τ᾽ εἶμεν ἀποτρέψαι, δικαίως [558e] ἂν ἀναγκαῖαι καλοῖντο, καὶ ὅσαι ἀποτελούμεναι ὠφελοῦσιν ἡμᾶς;

I haven't tracked through all the other examples but I feel that in the Phileb. 54e usage, ἀποτελέω is used in a direct reflexive middle sense rather than passive.

The question then is, why does Plato use the middle rather than the active (adding an object like in the Gorg. 503c-d example) in Phileb. 54e? This is pure speculation but I have always found the explanation of the voices in Duhoux 2000 (Le verbe grec ancien) useful, especially one of the distinctions drawn there between a stronger causative sense in the active, versus a more permissive sense in the middle and especially the passive.

In the Gorg. 503c-d quote above, Socrates is talking about which desires we should actively fulfill (this causative sense perhaps explaining the active voice), whereas in Phileb. 54e, the sense is different, and you get the sense that he is talking more about people who succumb to those desires (this permissive sense perhaps explaining the middle). This is as I said pure speculation though, I haven’t tracked through the examples.

Cheers, Chad

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