September 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Section 3 / Wrong
In a contract, what is right is already assumed. For Hegel, this becomes wrong when the two rights are brought together and one is “particular” (or peculiar) in a way that differs from the other. The opposing right, in its particularity, is a “semblance” (counterfeit) of right, it is only resolved when it negates itself to become right and not universal.
Even if wrong is merely a semblance of right, it desires to be self-sufficient. The wrong may appear to be right, or it is a clear nullity of the right, i.e. it’s just wrong, in the sense of the latter, it is a crime.
A. Unintentional Wrong
Possessions and contracts are drawn up by particular individuals, with any particularities that become inevitable under such agreements. These can be made legal in the universal recognition of the agreement. But, these can be interpreted in differing ways. Hence, we have the growth of varied disagreements resulting from the festering misunderstandings.
With civil law we make claims (or disputes) onto things that have to do with individuals and/or their property, we find that disputes of this kind are brought about by basic questions having to do with what is properly mine, or yours, along with any subsequent negations.
When we have only our particular interests in mind, right is made into a mere “semblance” (counterfeit) of itself, perhaps represented as an obligation. Yet, when confronted with universal right, as it is in-itself, two people can (hopefully) be made to recognize something beyond their mutual disagreement/s.
Deception is brought about by an individual’s “reduction” of the right to a semblance, which must be a counterfeit of right. Deception occurs, if we are fooled into thinking that the deception is right.
Although a contract, concerning property etc., can be legitimate, another’s respect for the universal will may not be in line with the actual terms of the agreements in the contract.
The universal aspect of right must be held, above and beyond, that which is arbitrary. Anything that does not recognize this is deceptive.
C. Coercion and Crime
To own something means you can bribe someone with it (as an unfortunate manifestation of your monomaniacal suffering).
Although certain people can be dominated by others due to their obsequiousness, my free will can resist being physically beaten. My free will might fall weak to banal external enforcements—only if I let in.
Force and coercion work in tandem to destroy the willing, the willful.
Coercion can be sublated (Aufheben) by coercion. Also, we must unfortunately, allow for forms of coercion that are obliquely horrible (re: pedagogical).
We will be sure to recognize that abstract right has it within its power to coerce the wrongfulness placed on it.
To infringe on another person’s rights, by coercion, is a crime. Hegel mentions the curious “negatively infinite judgment” [I’m continuing to research Hegel’s use of the judgment in his Logic] provisionally, the infinite judgment seems to be a judgment that is made between the individual and the “notion” (concept) and an infinite judgment must be when we are trying to subsume the ‘big picture’ in our way of judging the conceptual nature of things. So, a negative infinite judgment must go against a positive judgment, therefore, it is a crime. Crime, not only negates my will, it also tries to obviate my universal “capacity for rights.”
Surely, there must be a variance of quality and quantity by which we can assess a crime’s malfeasance. This must be determined in relation to the specific damage visited upon another person. Crimes manifest in a multitude of guises and must be considered with due measure.
When a crime is committed, there is an attempt to nullify a person’s rights. So, in turn, there is the open possibility to then nullify the negation (re: to right the wrong). Punishment seeks to sublate the wrongdoing.
Your evil “infringement” is only external, therefore, you should be held responsible for any or all property damage incurred by your spurious malfeasance.
Another person, can willfully injure my person, in so doing, this person is positively wrong, i.e. an injurious crime cannot coincide positively with the existence of other’s rights, freedoms, wills, etc. The only positive place for the injurious crime remains with what criminal does against me (see footnote: Feuerbach’s father).
A criminal sets up a kind of law unto his crime—punishable offences are often rationalized into existence.
Crimes are to be punished according to the quality and quantity of the crime committed. Your injustice deserves a proper punishment (review lengthy section again, re: the absurdity of an eye-for-an-eye, etc.).
Revenge doesn’t always exact an equivalent justice and it can be sustained throughout generations. Revenge might lose its original complaint over the years.
To resolve a wrongdoing, the “subjective will” must aspire/appeal to the “universal will” to lay claim to justice, rather than to simply declare revenge.
Transition from Right to Morality
We must acquire within ourselves the universal ability to recognize when we have been wronged, hereby making an advancement in the determination/s of our will. This must be a self-actualization that is transferable within our relationship with others. Freedom develops from the will in the abstract to be made self-determinate. Our will is made actual in our possessions. When we hold these possessions in common with others, we do so under contract. For something to be wrong the contingency of an individual’s will poses as a semblance of right (and so, banality continues in its counterfeit mode, ad infinitum…). It is at this point where we can (with Hegel’s assistance) progress to questions of morality.
September 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Section 1/ Property (continued)
For Hegel, a person has the right to own things and to take them up as his own (appropriation). Hegel references the Kantian “thing-in-itself.” Things are made evident by a determination of free will to take possession of them. Thus, the absolute will binds with the finitude of things to become an extension of the infinite (see footnote: Kant’s thing-in-itself).
We take power in the ownership of property and thereby property becomes an extension of our freedom, not as a means, but simply as part of it.
Private property is an extension of will and this is not arbitrary, nor is to be subsumed into state (communal) property which would be a denial of personal freedom, since the objects we own are the physical aspects of our will and cannot be taken away arbitrarily.
I own my body because I will it. For Hegel, animals don’t share this willing ownership of their corporeality.
The body and spirit are incommensurate until the spirit becomes self-consciousness, that is, until my spirit is made actual by my body—the body becomes the vehicle of spirit. The spirit cannot be made to be entirely separate from the body. Because of this, physical injury to my body is injury to my spirit, will, freedom etc.
I can own things, and that I own particular things, does not mean that everyone needs to own the same things, or the same amount of things. The things I own are brought about by the effort I have made to acquire them (see footnote: Fichte’s “civil property”).
A person owns things as a feature of his own free will. If another person wishes to take possession of such things, they have to confront my free will, not simply because I owned it first.
The fact that I can own something as an extension of my own free will, doesn’t mean much until this ownership potential stands in relation to other people. Rightful ownership implies a communal relationship to things.
When we take possession of a thing, we also take possession of its very materiality (see footnote: Fichte).
The will is related to its possession in three ways:
(α) Positive: I possess the thing.
(β) Negative: I do not possess the thing.
(γ) Infinite judgment: I possess the thing that I do not want, alternately, I want to possess the thing I cannot have (re: alienation).
A. Taking Possession
To possess something comes before ownership of something. Ownership is a designation of my determination to formalize the possession of the thing.
(α) When we take possession of something (physical seizure) I’ll have to understand that I can do this, not only with my hands, but by other means. Some things (land, rivers etc.) are extended beyond my mere grasping of them, therefore, I can be said to possess these things too.
(β) When I make something from what I possess, this form becomes (exists as) something other than me. It has a ‘life’ of its own.
My body is my own, but it does not become my own till I become self-conscious enough to make it an actuality. It is not enough to be human. One has to become a person (re: a slave has to actualize his personhood first, before he can take the necessary steps to become emancipated).
(γ) A sign (signifier) can be placed on my possession to designate it as mine, yet this is not ownership outright, it is merely a sign of that possession.
B. Use of the Thing
Under my capacity to own a thing is a primary relationship with that thing, in that, I can use this thing. With that possibility, it should not follow that if I do not use (or need) the thing, it will no longer be mine. This also means that if I choose to destroy and/or modify the thing, I can do so as I see fit.
If I can take possession of a thing that multiplies (re: livestock etc.) I also take possession of the thing’s capacity to grow. Thereby, I also own its products.
I also own the manifestations and growth of my possessions, to whatever end they become or decline.
If I do not completely own something, I must take into consideration that it belongs to someone else when I make use of it.
The thing’s usefulness determines its use-value. When I own something, I can, not only, use it, but I can also place a value on it.
Insofar as I own and possess things of value, the signs and usefulness have to be “prescribed”, in other words, I have to “prescribe” this thing as my property. So if I lose track of my possession, I also lose track of my capacity to own it (?).
C. The Alienation of Property
I can, if it is in my will (or lack thereof) let things go and I can relinquish my ability to hold onto things.
We have “inalienable” rights to our own personality, religion, ethics, happiness, sorrow, suffering, etc. Which means that spirit is something “cuis natura non potest concipi nisi existens” (whose nature cannot be conceived other than as existing) Spinoza, Ethics 1,1 as quoted by Hegel.
I can offer my services for hire or for payment, then, presumably, for Hegel, I can become a slave to someone else.
In this section it is unclear if Hegel is addressing copyright issues, or, if he is simply suggesting that one can make use of someone else’s intellectual products.
Here Hegel does address intellectual property rights and how an author has universal rights of ownership over his intellectual products.
Here, Hegel forbids suicide. I cannot dispose of my own life. I must die of some other means, or by another’s hand (see footnote: Kant, Fichte, Roman suicide, etc.).
Transition from Property to Contract
No one can own me, unless I give them the right to own me. The power I afford you is the equivalent to a lack self-consciousness I have over myself. I have self-consciousness over myself. Therefore, you cannot have power over me.
Section 2 / Contract
I can, as is the manner of my will, make real the ability to contract my property to another person. When I do this, I negate my will’s responsibility for the property (after the contract is signed, of course!).
If I choose to externalize my will in an agreement with another person (re: in a contractual agreement), our wills are unified under this agreement, until my possession/property/object is made rightfully theirs.
Our mutual wills, in a contractual agreement, are bound and unified together under an agreement if I’m willing to rid myself of a possession/property/object.
(α) Arbitrary will: two persons, in a mutually willing agreement, deciding to join in a contract.
(β) Common will: two person’s wills are joined in a contract.
(γ) Individual external thing: the product/s that are exchanged by means of a contract.
(see footnote: Kant’s “[…] reciprocal enjoyment of one another’s sexual attributes.”).
The contract has to be an agreement between two persons of mutual consent, whereby one is accepting a possession (or possessions) and the other is willing to be “alienated” from that possession.
When two persons join in a contractual agreement, they are obliged to have the same or equivalent things of value to be exchanged as an agreement of the contract. This suggests that one cannot offer something that becomes devalued before the object is exchanged. The contract is an exchange of things of equal value, or at least, of agreed upon value.
The contract has to be something of a representation of the terms of agreement between the consenting persons joined in the contract. In other words, draw up a contract—get it in writing.
A “stipulation” of the contract has to be stated its terms according to each person’s will in full detail, so as to avoid confusions, lawsuits etc. (see footnote: Fichte).
The contract has to be designed and structured according to the agreement/exchange in question:
A. Contract of gift.
B. Contract of exchange.
D. (name your contract, etc…).
The conditions of the contract have to be such that the mutual wills are in fact mutual and both are in agreement to meet the terms of the contract, to the fullest extent of each particular will. In this respect the wills of consenting persons, as mentioned earlier, are unified under the agreement/s. If these terms are not met, we move into what Hegel considers to be wrong.
September 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Part 1 / Abstract Right
For Hegel the abstract conceptualization of the will is immediate in its determinacy as it develops. Whereas, in a moral sense, the will has to act in opposition to its abstract potential, it is universal toward its own determinacy as that of a person (in society, as an individual). Think of a progression from universality → particularity → individuality.
The potentiality of the will is its universal character in the person. When I (a person) recognize this determinacy in its content (re: how the drives are manifested), this is how my finitude is revealed. In my finitude (within my limitations) I am connected to the universal, this is a universal aspect of who I am. A person has the ability to make what he becomes. This is his universal finitude, and this aspires to the infinite.
Our contingent personality has the right as its innate potential. Since we can recognize that the will’s formal contents expose our finitude as our limitations, we can recognize and respect this in others (idea possibly via Fichte).
The elements of the will are present it its content (its manifestations), yet this is not the whole of our personality. Our rights and freedom are only parts of the whole of who we are.
For Hegel, the concept of right in its abstract sense is only a possibility of what cannot be done. Presumably, this means that what can be done is limited by what cannot be done.
A person’s relation to the world is in opposition to his subjective willing. Personality sublates exteriority to become an individual existence.
The immediacy of right is freedom:
A. …abstract will owns this right (we have the right to possess things).
B. …a person has the ability to recognize this in others, as he recognizes himself (contractual arrangements).
C. …a person also sees himself as different (hence, this is where we disagree with others, we see them as wrong and then we chose to commit violent, petty and/or white-collar crimes upon them).
Section 1 / Property
To externalize his freedom, a person has to extend himself in opposition to the infinite will (as a wish to become it). Because of this, he must simultaneously recognize that the world does not automatically correspond to this (reality check!).
There is a vivid difference between the personal freedom of our spirit and the external world that thwarts this (re: we are all up against the thing-ness of the world in its immediacy and in its harsh externality).
The conceptual immediacy of the person naturally (and eventually) has to commune with the external world. His products, science, art, religion, etc. are examples of this mediation with the externality of things. As he is able to control these things, these objects become salient expressions of Spirit.
September 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
For Hegel the methodology of philosophical science is in its conceptualization. It is immanently progressive, which means that it is dynamic. This dynamic progression of philosophy happens by means of (Hegel’s) logic (which is not the logic we normally think of. Instead, Hegel’s logic is metaphysical and ontological). Philosophical progress is not entirely circumstantial, nor is it entirely universal (?). The concept of it dialectically dissolves and provides the particular. Hegel’s dialectic is not about getting to the ‘opposite’ sides of things, rather, it is a “higher dialectic”, it apprehends its content developmentally and it is immanently progressive as it arrives at its ‘positive’(affirmative) end. It is the soul of things. Its object is rational and this is its freedom.
The shapes of dialectical and dynamic determinations are conceptual and they are part of the larger “Idea” of things. This is speculative philosophy (i.e. it is seeking to holistically reconcile differences). Hence, the way things are and what they are becoming are brought together into a comprehensive “Idea” (re: the Absolute) in its ever-changing totality.
A. The will is immediate, abstract and external.
B. The will has a universal subjective component that moves in opposition to its external and universal parts. Good internal (?) Existent world external (?) reconciled into the “Idea”.
And the ethical is…
(a) Natural spirit, where one is most familiar (?)—the family.
(b) Division and appearance, where one is unfamiliar and has to make his own (?)—civil society.
(c) As freedom is in its complete actuality (?)—the state.
Hegel’s philosophy is a “speculative mode of cognition” (i.e. a dialectical reconciliation that always aims for the Absolute—as in ‘the big picture’) and its aim is to save itself from its own decline. The aim is not to dictate truth or to moralize. Philosophy seeks to know matters as they are. Philosophy must see its actual nature as rational. Freedom of thought is not about simply opposing the rules of the state. The ethical world is a self-actualized realization (re: a trans-formal conceptualization). Some people think philosophy is easy, and such people, as Jacob Friedrich Fries, thought that philosophy was all about the heart, friendship and enthusiasm—instead, it is more like (Hegel’s) rationalism. This is not a feel-good or superficial philosophy via Fries (and others). It is not clear if Hegel agrees with Plato’s conception of ethics, but Plato might agree with Hegel’s slogan that “What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational.” Therefore, philosophy’s goal is an explanation of the rational. Philosophy need not get caught up in every detail, since it knows that the infinite is immanent in the transient. Philosophy should not get caught up in prescriptions and instructions. Philosophy is not just about empty words, but how things actually are. (re: “Hic Rhodus, hic saltus” [don’t just talk about it] jump here, as [you jumped] in Rhodes). Philosophy is about the reconciliation toward the rational in actuality. Philosophy is the road toward God. “The owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk.” This famous quote means that Hegel’s philosophy can only see things clearly when the dust of history has settled. Philosophy is practiced after the facts have made themselves evident.
Philosophy concerns itself with the concept of right (freedom) and this right is the “Idea” and is a concept in actuality.
The right is an aspect of philosophy having to do with the “Idea” as reason, as its development, and as it is immanently developed. It is not a mere definition, but it is a concept developed from its content (re: Concept → Idea → Absolute).
Right is realized in…
1. Form: rational order.
2. Content: parts.
a. In the character of people and in its natural necessity.
b. In its external application.
c. In its decisiveness.
August 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
…when Alexander the Great took Egypt, he founded Alexandria, a new gateway from Egypt to the Mediterranean. Following this, Alexander traveled with Ptolemy I Soter to the Oracle of Amun at Siwa, who officially deified Alexander as Zeus-Amun. Shortly afterwards, Alexander died in Babylon. Without a succession plan, the Diodochi were left to decide how the vast Macedonian empire would be divided, leaving Ptolemy I Soter with the satrapy of Egypt. Ptolemy stole Alexander’s embalmed body to inter it in Memphis, thereby establishing a firm connection to Alexander’s legacy. It was during Ptolemy’s reign where the 1st portraits of Alexander were minted onto coins. Also during Ptolemy’s reign the Library of Alexandria was established, to compete with Athens for intellectual prestige. During the Ptolmaic dynasty, the male heirs took the name Ptolemy, whereas the females were Cleopatras, Arsinoes or Berenices. The Ptolemaic dynasty was known for its syncretic assimilation of the Egyptian religion, which won them good favor with Egyptian people for the 275 years of their rule. The Ptolemy’s were also known to have picked up other traditions of the Egyptian pharaohs, including frequent incest…for instance, Ptolemy I’s son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, married his full sister Arsinoe II. The dynasty was said to decline after Ptolemy IV and the Rosetta Stone was inscribed during Ptolemy V’s reign. Most of this later period was embroiled in dynastic intrigue, leading to the last pharaoh, Cleopatra VII. Although she was officially married to her brother, she courted Julius Caesar, and after Caesar was assassinated, she fell in love with Mark Antony who was on the opposing side of Octavian’s army, during the Roman civil war that erupted after Caesar’s death. Octavian won the Battle of Actium, defeating Mark Antony, who then committed suicide. Thus, Egypt fell under the newly established Roman empire, marking the end of Ptolemaic Egypt.
July 31, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Coins in ancient Greece are excellent records of the activity that surrounded them. In order to position an understanding that re-contextualizes information about numismatics the coins themselves will be the primary locus of this study—they are the primary actors. Actor-network theory (hereafter ANT) is offered as a methodology in which to research ancient Greek currency within varying contexts. Although human activity is an important part of the way we think of things, it will be decentralized here, but it will not be discounted or discarded. By way of ANT, coins will be examined in their unique relational contexts and how they have acted in these contexts as abstract ideas and physical objects under the categories of groups, actions, facts and objects. A broad historical perspective is given within these categories, to situate the birth of coinage and concluding with the Hellenistic era. A good deal of attention will be given to the birth of coins and the subtle problems that ensued as a result of their dynamic presence. Aeginetan coin design also presented an example of how mathematics and numismatics were unexpectedly linked in antiquity. The legacy of Alexander the Great stands as a high point in the ideology and reality of the quasi-mythic ruler’s influence. This issue will be considered, along with how his image was manipulated throughout the Hellenistic world after his death. This study will conclude with a question of how the agency of ancient Greek coins and their heterogeneous patterns have threaded through the networks that created them—via ANT.
The primary goal of this research will be to examine how coins were a part of the larger network of ancient Greek poleis and environs. Coins can be justifiably count as non-human agents that have profoundly affected society, ancient and otherwise. Our objective here will also be ontological, from a relational standpoint, this will include the dynamic material-semiotics made popular by ANT, specifically by Law and Latour. This brief and wide ranging research will try to resituate ancient numismatic networks that included coins as actors. We can plainly see that the ever-changing network of ancient coins still affects us in our contemporary age. Today, a collector can purchase a good quality ancient Greek coin for a relatively small amount of money, in comparison, the price of an ancient sculpture or vase would be likely be out of reach. In the introduction to his book The Legend of Alexander the Great on Greek and Roman Coins, Dahmen states that coins can be thought of as official documents. It is for this reason that coins represent and can serve to fill in the gaps of untold history, whereas other physical artifacts may not have survived as well. Dahman underscores this point with “coins are the only type of material culture carrying iconography and written messages the corpus of which is almost completely conserved in today’s museums and collections.”
If anything, ANT is ontological, meaning that it focuses on the specific relational and organizational ways things interact. ANT had its beginnings in the innovative social theory of the 1980s and it was initially conceived of by Law, Latour, and Callon. In his informative paper on ANT “The social and beyond: introducing Actor-network theory”, the maritime archaeologist Dolwick wonderfully elaborates the structure of ANT. He tells that it can generally be thought of as a methodology in which to do research about actors (or actants), these actants can be persons, groups, ideas objects, plants, animals, etc. The actor is either deliberately acting with agency or having actions and ancillary agencies surrounding it “It may not necessarily be the source of action, but something that modifies a state of affairs by making a perceptible difference.” Then, there is the network, this can simultaneously be an actant, but as Dolwick describes it “[…] is an interactive assembly of actors, group, or ‘string of actions’ involving a number of potential mediators.” As Dolwick demonstrates, we can organize our research into four basic categories: groups, actions, facts and objects. Ancient Greek coins can easily be thought of as operating within in a network of groups, actions, facts and objects—henceforth our organizational format. These categorizations will be explained along the way.
This category is probably the widest ranging and we could spend plenty of time here. As Dolwick describes it, the category of groups doesn’t have as much to do with looking at the actual grouping, rather the emphasis is looking at what is brings the groups together. “This concerns where and how the actors were assembled together.” This makes us want to ask: how were coins intermeshed with the society that minted them? In his introductory book on collecting ancient Greek coins, Sayles states that “coins do not have faulty memories or confuse one personage with another. They relate to us the same information that they related to someone living at the time of their issue.” He also reminds us that coins were invented in the kingdom of Lydia around 700 B.C.E. These early coins were minted from a gold and silver alloy known as electrum, in fractional denominations of a stater and whole staters. Schaps, in his impressive book The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece, has some question as to what the actual use was for these first coins. He divides the debate into two areas: the scholars that attribute the invention of a means of payment, or to those that speculate that the minting of the coins was “[…] a response to the problematic nature of electrum itself.”
Fig. 1. Lydian 1/6 stater (obverse). ca. 650-600 B.C.E. electrum. The British Museum, London.
Schaps argues that the coins could have been invented for a kind of official state payment to soldiers or even mercenaries, but Schaps see these uses as unlikely. As for the second possible use, Schaps suggests that the coins could have been way to guarantee the value of the electrum, since the gold to silver ratio of the alloy could vary depending on where the metal was mined. Howgego, in his book Ancient History from Coins, puts the question to rest “We know nothing about the function of the earliest coins.” If we were to readily accept Schaps second idea, that these coins were produced to guarantee the value of electrum, then the special alloy itself is determining how it is used, valued and distributed. The precious qualities of the electrum uniquely position it to be minted for whatever purpose the coins were actually made for. The quality of the metal determines its placement within its specific group. This connection includes the real need for such rare metals to be placed within their network of ancient Greek coinage. Electrum was not a secondary player within its group. Instead, it played a significant role in determining the beginning of coinage, because of its rarity and malleable qualities.
Dolwick describes this category as having to do with the concept of agency, he asks “What work was required to induce two or more potentially disagreeable actors into coexisting (perhaps even acting together)?” Coins transformed the way people negotiated with their world and they repositioned antiquated ways of exchange. Tordoff, in his remarkable paper “Coins, money, and exchange in Aristophanes’ Wealth”, writes about such transformations. Before the rise of capitalist markets, pre-capitalist reciprocal social exchanges were not clear cut. For example, “[i]n the context of close relationships, reciprocal exchanges may only be completed over a long period of time.” This means that the value exchanges between family or close friends were negotiated in a different, long term way than those of our current capitalist model. Then Tordoff counters this with “By contrast, in the context of the market, where social distance is great, the exchange on the spot of items of equal value will be the norm.” The difference here has to do with a long established pre-monetary way of exchanging things vs. a monetary way of making an exchange, whereby “[…] within the community of the village, bonds of kinship and morality make this sort of activity fundamentally unacceptable.” Tordoff suggests that since the practices of exchange were morally questionable, money would be “cooked.” Presumably, if a fisherman wanted to use the money he earned by fishing, he would give it to his wife, who would use it for the household in a less explicit way than a simple quid pro quo transaction. We could think of this as a kind of domesticated soft money, whereby the edges of direct exchange became blurry, less matter-of-fact and more socially acceptable. This shows us that money just wasn’t as we view it today. Actually, coins were distrusted. It should go without saying, but it is worth repeating, the advent of coinage changed the traditional ways in which things were exchanged. Tordoff writes that coins were looked at with suspicion and hostility because money was “[…] a new medium of exchange that threatened the old established practices of reciprocal gift giving […]” The resistance to this new form of exchange basically sped up the exchange process and it also deflated long traditions of aristocratic gift giving. People used coins in an exchange that quickly became more democratic and equalizing. In these examples it becomes clear that the human actors, in their new found connection to the coin actors, had to measurably adjust and accommodate their ways of dealing with the world. These small valuations of metal have changed people’s relationship to exchange and commerce by streamlining the process. Coins and people are causally linked. Their actions were once new and suspicious. Nowadays we no longer question their place because their agency has been fixed and placed within our capitalist network.
Haselgrove and Krmnicek in their thorough and fascinating essay “The archaeology of money” write that “as artifacts, coins and other kinds of currency are an integral part of the archaeological record.” But they show that the study of numismatics can easily become divorced from its context through the course of history. Coins become isolated agents that seem to act in the predictable ways we understand them, yet we cannot let this view obscure the past. Our perception of monetary patterns in the ancient world does not always apply to the way it actually was. The authors remind us that coins are a unique record of the past, coins can be thought of as a kind of fossil record that becomes an illustration of the ancient past. Haselgrove and Krmnicek also mention the invention of coinage that corresponded to the use of the alloy of electrum, some of their attention is on the archaeological find of one of the largest hordes of electrum coins, that was found somewhere beneath the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in modern day Turkey. This shows that our relationship to the past can easily change depending on how good (or bad) the archaeology is. There could be more hordes of coins to be found elsewhere and whenever a significant find comes to the surface, it could, and usually does, change our sense of the past, even if it’s just a little. Our understanding of the network of the ancient world can change with every new find, thus, the newly excavated coins and their particular agency could easily reposition the existing historical record, depending on how exceptional, rare or valuable the find actually turns out to be. The factors that include value, both past and present, can be thought of as an agency the coins deploy and this value ‘causes’ any of the activity surrounding around them. In other words, because of the intrinsic material, historical, and cultural value of the coins, archaeologists must respect their finds by classifying, identifying, and preserving the artifacts. This is the agency and the network of the ancient coins, whereby the artifacts (the coins) are, more or less, dictating how they will be treated and respected by the archaeologists and others.
This category is somewhat difficult to place and to help us understand it, Dolwick asks “So, in the actor’s accounts, which facts were being disputed and made matters of concern?” This category is not only about the facts themselves, but it is also about how those facts were getting repositioned and questioned within their ever changing networks. Ancient Aeginetan coin design presents an intricate example of this, whereby mathematics and numismatics become unexpectedly linked and questioned. The dispute Dolwick speaks of is basically a question of incommensurability. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines incommensurable as such “the term ‘incommensurable’ means ‘no common measure’, having its origins in ancient Greek mathematics, where it meant no common measure between magnitudes.” In his paper “Pre-Euclidian geometry and Aeginetan coin design: some further remarks.” Ambrosi presents the idea that ancient Greek coins from the island of Aegina depict specific geometric designs that predate Euclid’s description of ‘doubling the square’. The early geometric designs on the coins from 500 B.C.E. seem to conceal incommensurability, while later Aeginetan 400 B.C.E. coins reveal irrational numbers (re: √2) which also relate to complex philosophical and cosmological issues of Pythagoras, Euclid, Aristotle, Plato and Heraclitus. Aeginetan coins with these geometric designs were widely used throughout ancient Greece. Although, little is known about why the geometric designs were imprinted on the Aeginetan coins, Ambrosi claims that when we do the math, the early designs conceal important mathematical problems. This is because the ancient Greeks had not yet come to terms with incommensurability, which could have its origins in early Pythagorean secrecy. Ambrosi indicates that later editions of the coins show the geometry clearly, and this coincides with the acceptance in Greek intellectual circles with of the concept of incommensurability (see Fig. 2). Ambrosi concludes by noting that the mathematical design on these coins would have been understood by the ancient (intellectual) Greeks. Much can be discussed about the mathematics of the coins, but we still cannot be sure about the actual motivations behind the designs.
Fig. 2. The Aeginetan coins (boldly outlined, marked with A.) show the geometric design on the reverse of the coins as un-obscured, most of the other coins show the geometric design as obscured (including some of the later examples, this might indicate that these examples are older, even though some of them are grouped in the 480-431 B.C.E. timeframe).
The way this last category is described by Dolwick seems to fit the idea of coinage perfectly “[…] far from being the mere hapless bearers of symbolic projection, objects (things) have the potential to exist within their own little webs of materialized relations [...]” This is the part of ANT where the so called ‘non-human’ actors are important. With coins this point is made obvious via how the elaborate political networks of the ancient world used coinage. The legacy of Alexander the Great stands as a high point in the ideology of the quasi-mythic ruler’s portrait on a wide variety of coins throughout the Hellenistic world, including Ptolemaic Egypt. François de Callataÿ in his essay “The fabulous wealth of the Hellenistic kings: coinage and Weltmachpolitik,” writes that Ptolemy I Soter “[…] was the first to place Alexander’s image on coins.” This peculiar fact places all the coinage with Alexander’s image as post mortem. De Callataÿ reminds us that “[a]lthough Alexander adopted […] an ancient coin type without the intention of being identified with Heracles, his portrait was evident on it in antiquity.” This means that any of the portrait images on all the coins minted in Alexander’s lifetime, are only suggestive of him as a god, but they are not actually portraits of him. In his book Dahman (mentioned earlier) brings up the issue of Ptolemy I Soter’s usage of Alexander’s image on coins, in a slightly different way “the purpose here is not really to portray as an individual, but rather to exploit his legend and ideological potential […]” Ptolemy I Soter was keying into the legend of the great leader and the coins became a physical manifestation of that desire. The coins are the non-human place where the idealization becomes a reality. A man’s face on a small piece of metal becomes the medium and tangible artifact of his legacy—the coins are intrinsically a part of his oversized identity and idealization.
Fig. 3. Tetradrachm of Ptolemy I Soter, (obverse) ca. 323-305 B.C.E. silver. Showing a fine portrait of Alexander the Great with an elephant skin helmet. The Fitzwilliam Museum.
The blending of abstract and physical circumstances in which we can ask about the action, distribution and placement of coins in ancient Greece offers a rich, albeit incomplete, area of study. To call this a conclusion suggests that we have accomplished all that we have set out to do. This is far from the truth. Our work is not done. However, we can conclude that coins did not operate in their specific networks in predictable ways. From the earliest invention of coins in modern day Turkey, to the Hellenistic kingdom of Ptolemy I Soter, coins have shown themselves to be actively transforming the actions around them. As much as we want to place humans at the center of everything, ANT shows us that objects, such as coins, can decentralize our sense of value and our understanding of the very networks they have created.
Ambrosi, G.M. 2012. “Pre-Euclidian geometry and Aegintan coin design: some further remarks.” Archive for History and Exact Sciences 66:557-583.
Dahmen, K. 2007. The Legend of Alexander the Great on Greek and Roman Coins. New York: Routledge.
De Callataÿ, François. 2012. “The fabulous wealth of the Hellenistic kings: coinage and Weltmachpolitik.” Words and Coins from Ancient Greece to Byzantium, 91-101. Ghent: MER Paper Kusthalle.
Dolwick, J.S. 2009. “’The social’ and beyond: introducing Actor-Network Theory.” Journal of Maritime Archaeology 4: 21-49.
Haselgrove, C. S. Krmnicek. 2012. “The archaeology of money.” Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 235-50.
Howgego, Christopher, 1995. Ancient History from Coins. New York: Routledge.
Law, John, John Hassard, eds. 1999. Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell.
Oberheim, Eric and Hoyningen-Huene, Paul. 2013. “The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/incommensurability/ .
“Ontology.” 2006. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 670. New York, NY: Oxford.
Sayles, Wayne G. 1997. Ancient Coin Collecting II: Numismatic Art of the Greek World. Iola: Krause Publications.
Schaps, David M. 2004. The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Tondoff, R.C. 2012. “Coins, money and exchange in Aristophanes’ Wealth.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 142 (2): 257-293.
 Haselgraove and Krmnicek define numismatics as: “the academic study of coins, medals and related monetary objects.” 2012, 236.
 Ontology usually has to do with being, and with special consideration given to the origins of being, but when we consult The Oxford Companion to Philosophy it indicates that “Different systems of ontology propose alternative categorical schemes” The Oxford Companion to Philosophy 2006, 670.
 John Law helps to summarize this material-semiotic approach “There is semiotic relationality (it’s a network whose elements define and shape one another), heterogeneity (there are different kinds of actors, human and otherwise), and materiality (stuff is there aplenty, not just “the social”). There is an insistence on process and its precariousness (all elements need to play their part moment by moment or it all comes unstuck). There is attention to power as an effect (it is a function of network configuration and in particular the creation of immutable mobiles), to space and to scale (how it is that networks extend themselves and translate distant actors).” Law 1999, 1-14.
 Dahmen 2007, 3.
 supra n. 4, 3.
 Dolwick 2009, 40.
 supra n. 5, 36-42.
 supra n. 5, 36-42.
 supra n. 5, 36-42.
 supra n. 6, 40.
 supra n. 6, 40.
 Sayles 1997, 2.
 supra n. 12, 3.
 supra n. 12, 4.
 Schaps 2004, 97.
 supra n. 15, 100.
 supra n. 15, 100-101.
 Howgego 1995, 3.
 Dolwick 2009, 41.
 Tordoff 2012, 271.
 supra n. 20, 271.
 supra n. 20, 271.
 supra n. 20, 272.
 supra n. 20, 272.
 supra n. 20, 273.
 supra n. 20, 273.
 Haselgrove and Krmnicek 2012, 236.
 supra n. 27, 236.
 supra n. 27, 240.
 Dolwick 2009, 41.
 Oberheim and Hoyningen-Huene 2013.
 Ambrosi 2012, 561-562.
 supra n. 32, 557-583.
 supra n. 32, 557-583.
 supra n. 32, 557-583.
 Dolwick 2009, 41.
 De Callataÿ 2012, 94.
 supra n. 37, 93.
 Dahman 2007, 48.
March 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Reading the philosophy of Edmund Husserl is no small task. This is the kind of reading that requires patience along with the foresight that one will have to read and reread paragraphs till any semblance of coherence begins to unfold and unfurl. It is tempting bring in the analogy of mining for precious metals, where to find the philosophy, one would have to dig deep through the strata to find a bright and brilliant fragment of value. To think of Husserl’s phenomenology like this is a mistake. Robert Sokolowski toward the end of his paper on Husserl’s categorical intuition speaks of a clarified approach to philosophy in a general “Philosophy only works by quoting, so to speak, the pre-philosophical, and by presenting, from a new and special angle, what was already present in the pre-philosophical” (140). It is as if we must regard the basic experience of categorical intuition as already there in our day-to-day moments to understand it not only philosophically, but also phenomenologically. To do philosophy with Husserl is just a matter of bringing in the methods and challenges of phenomenology to bear in consciousness, to then thematize the minute complexity that’s already present in the totality of the experiences, perceptions, cognitions, and intentions themselves that are already alive with conscious experiencing.
The goal for this post will not be to summarize Husserl’s phenomenological project. Instead, we’ll turn our attention to a single feature, categorical intuition. This choice is not random since it will lead to some fundamental questions concerning Husserl’s early work developing phenomenology in the Logical Investigations. We’ll also look to Martin Heidegger’s elaboration and extension of the term in his 1925 lecture series titled History of the Concept of Time, these were the preliminary lectures that put forth much of the groundwork for Being and Time. It is also important to pay gratitude to Robert Sokolowski’s paper “Husserl’s Concept of Categorial Intuition.” Sokolowski always has a masterful way of making Husserl’s phenomenology accessible and clear. Dermot Moran also deserves high praise for all his scholarship surrounding Husserl’s philosophy. He introduces the shorter edition of the Logical Investigations we’re using here. In addition, Moran worked with Joseph Cohen on The Husserl Dictionary which provided a well needed resource for all the recondite phenomenological words Husserl deploys, coupled with their difficult to pin down ideas.
Categorial intuition (kategoriale Anschauung) (Moran, Cohen 59) is dealt with extensively throughout chapter six in Husserl’s Logical Investigations. Let’s begin to unfold the term by trying to understand how we come to perceive things. Essentially when we perceive something we find it “fulfilled” as matter and we also understand these things as “…beyond their nominal terms” (Husserl 339). Fulfillment is a special term Husserl uses to indicate a kind of conscious immersion in the way the object is presented in its perceptual way, but this also involves the structure of how it’s identified and how it is intended. We’ll address fulfillment first, then go back to identification, so “…the fulfillment is the experience of the coincidence between the empty intention [not immediately present] and its fulfilling object” (Moran, Cohan 130). This fulfillment happens during the broader act of intending, which means roughly “…the ‘aboutness’ or ‘directedness of our conscious state (Moran, Cohan, 167). This then indicates that even when we have the intention of an object before us it is a fulfillment to be in recognition of the fact that the object is presently and fully regarded. The object is fulfilled during the intention of it. When absent the object is not present in this way—it is emptily intended “…in its intuitive absence it is [symbolized] …in a token way…” (Moran, Cohen 104).
The categorical is not the object itself but the way the object is present to our understanding of it. Sokolowski calls the categorical a “syntactical” (128). The word syntactical is a big hint that the categorical is a structural component that helps us understand our relationship to how we perceive the world in the round. Therefore, a syntactical structuring isn’t a component of linguistics exclusively, but to be regarded within experience in general, where the categorical is representative of the syntactical framework of experience. Husserl indicates that the categorical is connected to the syntactical term: “copula” (339). When Husserl writes of categorical intuition as it relates to a piece of white paper, he’s keen to make it clear that in a sentence like “white paper is paper which is white” the word “is” is categorical (341).
With all of this said, categorial intuition is much more than just the word “is”, it simultaneously has to do with how the presence of the is-ness of white is intuited within the perceptual experience and not built upon it. It has to do with the being of whiteness presented to us as we experience the paper. As Husserl puts it, it is how “…the apparent object announces itself as self-given” (341). There are points where Husserl calls the categorical “supersensuous” (349), probably to indicate that it involves the sensuous, while at the same time, the categorial also involves more than just sense. Sokolowski identifies the categorical in the way that the object is known to us as “presencing” (129). This is not a feature of the object in and of itself, but how it’s known to me in all its verisimilitude. This is a phenomenological way to explain and to present how an object is made objective not in successive steps, but simultaneously within the actual experience, where identification is brought together within the “presencing” of a particular object (Sokolowski 129). Sokolowski writes that this coming together of identity and presence where “the identity, the belonging of a feature to its object, the object’s being and such, is what corresponds intuitively to word ‘is’ when we say, ‘S is p’” (131).
We normally think of our world filled with stuff be we never stop to think of how we understand the in-between ‘is-ness’ of these things. The ‘is’ of these things has to do with the being of the things, yet even Husserl attests “among these [things] anything like ‘is’ is naturally not to be found” (345). A quick glance through the dictionary tells us that the meaning of the word “is” is the third person singular present of the word “be” (Oxford 715). This should give us the bigger hint that the idea of “is” has to do with being in a fundamental and experiential way. This “is” or its syntactical equivalents, do not just happen in subjective perception but in the fullest rush of all objective experience. So Husserl has to clarify that the intuition of the object as fulfilled and that our reflected judgment of a basic reflection is not something we do when we reflect on the “is” of something (347). Then he continues to define catergorial intuition partially by what it is not.
Not in reflection upon judgments, nor even the upon fulfillments of judgments, but in the fulfillments of judgments themselves lies in the true source of the concepts State of Affairs and Being (in the copulative sense) (347).
There’s a phenomenological job to decipher what Husserl’s pointing to as much as it is to notice that he’s saying that the categorical does not happen “upon” the judgments, or “upon” the fulfillment of judgments. States of affairs are about the tangible world as it’s presented to us in a particular way where the judgment is “…essentially involved with conceptualization and generalization” (Moran, Cohen 173). This is part of how we conceptualize being prephilosophically, we know something is here or it is not here without anyone needing to thematize the occurrence for us. Yet, it is only when we put name to this phenomena do we begin describe the philosophical import of these primary acts of cognition that appear to elude everyday expression and then some.
Looking onward, anyone who has read even a little bit of Heidegger will know of the utmost precedence he placed on ontology—re: Dasein and being. Sokolowski, Moran and Cohen together attest the curious fact that Heidegger was strongly impressed with Husserl’s discovery of categorical intuition as it is inextricably linked to being (Moran, Cohen 60), (Sokolowski 128). In Heidegger’s exhaustive preliminary section given in his description of the “fundamental discover[ies]” (27) by Husserl of the three concepts of intentionality, categorical intuition and the a-priori, Heidegger writes that the objectivity of “…categorical intuition is itself the objective manner in which reality itself can become more truly objective” then he broadens this to “there is no ontology alongside a phenomenology. Rather, scientific ontology is nothing but phenomenology” (72). There’s a reason Heidegger is calling the categorical intuition a discovery, because what was there to be discovered had been with us all along—being. We use it, but we don’t know how we’re using it. We’re living within it. We just don’t know how to conceptualize the way we’re living within it. Let us recall that Husserl does write of the categorical as related to being “…so the concept of Being can arise only when some being, actual or imaginary, is set before our eyes” (347).
It’s easy to brush off Husserl only as a stepping-stone to better appreciate the mature Heidegger, which is what Heidegger might’ve approved of. The objective here is not to do that. All we had to do was look at one of Husserl’s terms unfold and then to notice that we have before us a phenomenological vantage that positions us before the expanse of experience itself—before Heidegger. The descriptive potential of trying to understand what catergorial intuition means will serve to broaden our capacity for knowledge of the abstractions that are involved with basic perception and how we intuit, experience and know them even before we put words to them.
Yet, there is always an almost perverse and hermetic quality to Husserl’s work that’s daunting and intimidating to most. This gives us reason to try learning to inhabit our world phenomenologically along with him, because phenomenology gives us the methods by which to know what’s already there. It is on the inside of the frustrating work as we sweat over the terms and their relationships that only gradually open up to conceptualization. None of this would happen without the work of reading and rereading Husserl’s many paragraphs till any semblance of coherence begins to unfold and disclose what we see before us and so on…
Heidegger, Martin. History of the Concept of Time. Trans, Theodore Kisiel. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1979. Print.
Husserl, Edmund. The Shorter Logical Investigations. Trans. J.N. Findlay. New York, NY: Routledge, 2001. Print.
“Is.” The Oxford College Dictionary. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007: 715. Print.
Moran, Dermot and Joseph Cohen. The Husserl Dictionary. New York, NY: Continuum, 2012. Print.
Sokolowski, Robert. “Husserl’s Concept of Categorial Intuition.” Philosophical Topics, 1982: 127-141. PDF file.
March 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Mark Matveyevich Antokolski, The Dying Socrates, 1875.
Socrates died 2,412 years ago by drinking hemlock. The account of the trial that lead to his death sentence is famously documented by Plato in the Apology and also by Xenophon in his Apology. In the introduction to Xenophon’s two works, Raymond Larson tells us that Plato’s account of the trial was probably first hand, whereas Xenophon’s account was through the secondary source of a mutual friend of Socrates, Plato and Xenophon, a man named Hermogenes (17). Although the two accounts differ in certain respects, when combined, they offer the only historical records of the trial. For this paper we’ll focus on the relevance of death and how mortality relates to the philosophy of Socrates.
The way we understand Socrates is by knowing that he died doing philosophy. He was officially charged with impiety (asebeia/ἀσέβεια) and for corrupting the youth of Athens. But, it was also because he was making himself known by calling into question the widely held beliefs of those who would be offended when shown their opinions were wrong. The emphasis here will not be to focus on the charges or the trial outright, instead we will look at the attitude Socrates takes toward death itself in the two Apologies and how his unique way of contending and discussing death philosophically expands our own concepts surrounding end-of-life matters. It is in the extraordinary way in which Socrates eloquently speaks of death (thanatos/θάνατος) that inspires readers with his courage, fortitude and wisdom. He was willing to die for his cause, rather then to live into old age with compromise.
As we all know Plato’s Apology is replete with references to death, probably because Socrates knew that he’d be given the death sentence. Not only does he seem to know that his death was immanent, but he extends the meaning of it to demonstrate that the fear of death is comparable to ignorance.
For the fear of death, men, is in fact nothing other than to seem wise, but to not be so. For it is to seem to know what one does not know: no one knows whether death does not even happen to be the greatest of all goods for the human being; but people fear it as though they knew well that it is the greatest of evils (29a-b).
C.D.C. Reeve in his book on the Apology rightly compares this statement to what he calls “the Digression” (180). This alignment is made with the celebrated ‘digressive’ statement made earlier in Plato’s Apology, where Socrates claims to not be wise and that to be wiser one has to know what one doesn’t know (21b-d). All this is essentially and slyly positioned by Socrates to demonstrate a vital component of Socratic wisdom: know what you don’t know, or at least be cognizant of the fact that there are things that one can be ignorant of. This extends to the ultimate awareness about what we do know, in the sense that sometimes what we think we know more than we do and this might actually be a way to conceal a fundamental ignorance. So how, according to Socrates, can we know that death is something to be feared since we don’t know what happens after death? As we can see, this illustrates a typical problem and habit we have with fearing most of what we cannot understand, in this mindset, things that we don’t understand are things to fear, at least if we are ignorant of the fact that we need not always fear the unknowable, as with the benign things that are unfamiliar or even death itself. Not only do we fear death, but we also fear ignorance itself. It is for this reason that we often wish to conceal ignorance and death at all costs. So, the underlying lesson in the dual example of death and not being wise is manifold. To be wise, is to embrace your own ignorance, at least to the extent that you’re aware of it enough to know when you’re hiding behind knowing something when you really don’t. And it also shows that the fear of death is not something to avoid, but is something to face with fresh eyes, since it’s ultimately inevitable. Socrates cleverly demonstrates that the unknowability of death can disclose these things.
Xenophon’s Apology, as mentioned, does differ from Plato’s, it’s considerably shorter and it also depicts Socrates as having a slightly more down-to-earth attitude toward the issue of his impending death. For Xenophon’s Socrates, death is a welcome avoidance of the infirmities one would possibly have to endure with as old age advances.
But now, if my life continues, I know I’ll have to pay the price of old age […] What pleasure will I get out of life if I see myself deteriorating and reproach myself for it? […] A person is bound to be missed if he passes away with a healthy body and a soul capable of amiability. […] I’ll offend the jury and choose death like a free man rather than slavishly beg for the worthless gain of continued life (6-9).
Here, in Xenophon’s account, as it was conveyed to him by Hermogenes, Socrates almost suggests that to beg for life would be cowardly. It should be evident why death would appear to be the better option, because he would be dying for his cause. As Socrates attested near the end of Xenophon’s account, “I never harmed anyone or made anyone bad […] I helped those I conversed with by freely teaching them every good I was able” (26). It is for these seemingly simple reasons that we are still remembering Socrates—he was a great teacher. In our contemporary era this example seems too quick, it is as if he’s too eager to die. Nowadays we do not hesitate to think in terms of clinging to life at all costs. No matter what, death is always to be avoided. Socrates presents us with an alternatively extreme view that sometimes death is better than life. We must advocate such a view with caution and without any haste, but we do know that the untimely death of a wise man can serve to emphasize his altruistic and noble cause to do philosophy. We still think of Socrates as wise and that he died for his cause.
To continue on this thantic theme, we should include a few more things that shouldn’t be left out. We’ll be sure to recall the oft-repeated quote given by Socrates toward the end of Plato’s Apology after the jury has found him guilty and he is asked to give a ‘counterproposal’ to a possible death sentence. As Socrates speaks, he mildly suggests a possible exile where he would continue his work and the young would listen to his teachings and his way of doing philosophy (37d). He continues with the conviction that even in exile he wouldn’t stop “…conversing and examining both myself and others—and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being…” (38a). Although he is not explicitly speaking of death in this quote, the implication is too strong to ignore. Again, to paraphrase, Socrates is positioning the claim that if one doesn’t actively examine, interrogate and inquire about life and how to live it, he is better off dead. This idea demonstrates his predicament as much as it shows his wisdom. If he is (and, as we know he will be) presented with the death sentence, he can no longer practice his work of doing philosophy, therefore, he can no longer examine life, since he might be asked to keep silent in exile. The lesson is not lost on us either, if we are to truly live an examined life we much inquire, question and examine life as much as we can. Curiosity is at the base of this suggestion. All we have to do is act with a similar conviction to know more about life.
As the trial unfolds in Plato’s Apology, he is in fact, given the death sentence to drink the poisonous hemlock and then he gives his pensive closing remarks. Now that he knows his fate, he has no regrets about the way he defended himself “I prefer to die having made my defense speech in this way than to live in that way” (38e). When he says that he didn’t want ‘to live in that way’ he must have meant that he is proud that he didn’t have to grovel nor beg for his life. This connects with Xenophon’s record to show that Socrates was not willing to compromise his values at any expense, thereby setting a laudable example for the people of Athens and for posterity.
There is another strangely appropriate quote in Plato’s retelling where Socrates is continuing to talk after the death penalty is read, this is where he is sorting through the notion that escape from death could have been a possibility for him had he made a stronger more eloquent plea and defense. “But I suspect it is not hard, men, to escape death, but it is much harder to escape villainy. For it runs faster than death” (39a-b). This is easily directed at his accusers and the percentage of the jury who condemned him to die. The villainy of deciding that someone should die for showing people the truth is not as far-fetched as it sounds on the surface. We already know that sometimes people don’t like to be told the truth of things, namely if the truth is made to expose their ignorance, since we don’t like to be shown to not know something. Villainy is typically characterized as evil, crafty and deceitful, among other things. If we think just for a second about these qualities in comparison to what Socrates is saying, we see his point. People are quick to judge others, it’s easy to find flaw with someone else and it is easy to misinterpret things if we’re not thinking carefully. But villainy calls for darker motives, it’s faster than death because it can’t stay anywhere for too long. A villain doesn’t want to be figured out so he will move with speed, yet the speed belies his deeper problem of plain old ignorance. This kind of ignorance resides in all of us and usually we’re too afraid to see it—to know it. Socrates teaches us these things and then some. His way demonstrates that we must not be afraid to say we don’t know everything, something and nothing.
To be sure, this leaves us with four more pressing questions that have already been implied. How do I contend with my own ignorance? How do I contend with my own death? Then, how does this help me contend with the ignorance of others? And what wisdom is to be had when we witness and contemplate the death of others?
Larson, Raymond. The Apology and Crito of Plato and the Apology and Syposium of Xenophon. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1980. Print.
Plato and Aristophanes. Four Texts on Socrates. Trans. Thomas G. West and Grace Starry West. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998. Print.
Reeve, C.D.C. Socrates in the Apology. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1989. Print.
 The plant from which the hemlock Socrates is made to drink is formally known as Conium. It is a large flowering weed which resembles parsley and grows in many parts of the world, including here in Colorado.
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fig. 1. Anonymous. “Monstrance,” silver gilt, 17th century (Denver Art Museum).
Cleverly positioned—in the center of an upper gallery floor at the Denver Art Museum—is the small silver gilt monstrance pictured in Fig. 1., its exact dimensions are not listed, but it looks to be about 16-18” tall, with the diameter of the base around 6-8”. This little monstrance is placed amidst dozens of other pieces of Spanish colonial silver from all over the Americas. This specific piece is from Peru and was made anonymously sometime in the 17th century.
What is a monstrance, you ask? The New Catholic Encyclopedia describes a monstrance as
A liturgical vessel used for showing the Blessed Sacrament at exposition and benediction, and in processions. Its name and the alternative name of Ostensorium are derived from the Latin words monstrare and ostendere both meaning ‘to show.’
Although it is tempting to dive into its historical background as a piece of Spanish colonial silverwork, that history will have to serve as a background to a basic formal analysis. With this in mind, we still have to pay some attention to its form as a religious object and to its relative position in the history of art in general. The fact that it is a display receptacle for the host—a paper thin wafer of fine bread, said to symbolize the body of Christ—is enough to suggest that its form follows its function. Yes, the motto ‘form follows function’ was a popularized during the modernist period of art history in the 20th century. However, this object is not modern per se. If a clear style can be attributed to the piece, it would have to be the Baroque, or better said, the Colonial Spanish Baroque. As we already know, the Baroque is a style that was often characterized by elaborate surface ornamentation coupled (usually) with a strong sense of dramatic movement. This piece does exemplify some of these stylistic motifs in moderation.
On the website Sancta Missa, A.J. Schulte gives a few of the many rigid prescriptions as to how a monstrance must serve as a proper host receptacle, where the upper part, that actually encapsulates the host, must have as its outer frame “the most appropriate form […] of the sun emitting its rays to all sides.” Although in this case, the ornamented pierced eight pointed star doesn’t exactly look like sun’s rays, it does serve as an effective way to bring the utmost attention to the centered circular viewing capsule. Schulte also gives permission to the adoring angels at the stem “…it is appropriate to have two statues representing adoring angels.” In this case, the silversmith seems to have strayed from these liturgical rules and instead of two angels, we have six adoring angels. In addition to the full-bodied angels on the stem, the surrounding star frame includes four tinier adoring angel faces. Incidentally, because of its small size overall, we will assume that this portable monstrance was intended for a small church with a limited budget. Annoyingly, the top piece is bent forward. It would not take too much restoration to make the crooked straight, so as to give this monstrance an ordered appeal, as it is exhibited it looks ever so slightly broken, despite the prominent position given to it in the center of the gallery.
The overall lines of the monstrance are fairly simple. We have a circle atop a line with a proportionate horizontal base that is roughly the size of the filigree star frame itself. The monstrance is entirely symmetrical on both sides (with the slight variations of the all angel’s gestures), this lends to its harmony as a visual object. It has a predictable Platonic order. This symmetry was probably enhanced when the Monstrance was placed on an altar, in situ. And even now, the symmetry is further referenced in the way it is strategically displayed at the museum, flanked by the evenly spaced vitrines on either side of it, with it in the center, in its own vitrine.
This naturally leads us to the shape of the object, which has everything to do with its explicit purpose—that is, to venerate, uphold, display, enshrine and to adore the host. As we have discussed already, the sun’s rays, or better yet, the star shaped frame is eight pointed and this holds the center crystal as the ultimate focal point. The stem is multi-tiered and lathed. This complicated stem, as with any well-made stem of this kind, is direct evidence of the labor it took to fabricate it. The Baroque style demanded such a devotion to intricacy. The six angels must have been affixed after the stem was complete. They are somewhat rough-hewn without much exacting attention given to a making them appear too lifelike and cherubic. They look like winged apparitions who are suddenly appearing out of the blue, like supernatural birds, to help the faithful to cherish the symbolic body of God in the form of a delicate wafer of bread under glass.
Its color is golden silver and the texture of the monstrance is vividly detailed, smooth and metallic. Although the silver is gilt, the gold has partially worn down, probably due to its vigorous cleanings over the centuries. This means that the surface is also highly reflective and bright. Silver is precious because it takes a polish so well, another reason we like it has to do with its malleability. Silver takes any form a talented silversmith imagines. Gold and silver are liturgical metals. They are highly reflective and under the candle light of mass they glisten and look esteemed. All of these metallic qualities are valuable, hence their widespread use for formal occasions in and out of the church. When the Eucharist is placed in the monstrance to be adored, it is given a position of great importance because it is housed in this beautiful metal. Here is this specially made silver and gold object surrounding the very thing that is an expression of those who have taken to the faith. It is a vehicle of faith. This is a form of devotional hardware.
It must be said that one need not be a Christian to look at and admire this brilliant object. If we didn’t comprehend the religious component of art, we would have to excise generous swathes of art history. Yes, artistic expression can thrive without religiosity and religions can be effective without their materialism, but can we exclude the attention to either art or religion when we seek to know about those who have worshipped before us? The formality of this gleaming monstrance speaks to the contrary.
 New Catholic Encyclopedia, (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America, 2003), s.v. “Monstrance.”
 A.J. Schulte. “Ostensorium – Monstance” Sancta Missa, 2010. http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/sacristy/sacristy-sanctuary-and-altar/ostensorium-monstrance.html