My head is all over the place today…

…so I thought I’d update with what’s going on here.

Right now, rereading Book 1 of Xenophon’s Memorabilia, which has 4 books total. I am playing with the idea that each book corresponds with a cardinal virtue – the order they might be in is moderation, wisdom, courage, justice.

The trick is to get this thesis to stick for book 1 at least, even though I can see huge problems with books 2 and 4 already. In book 2, Socrates talks to his own relatives and his friends about what they can do to better their lives. They do lack wisdom in book 2, but I’ve written on nearly every section of that book at this point, and I can safely say the main thing lacking is any concept of what fraternal love means. Book 4 seems to be dedicated to Socrates’ teaching exclusively, which would make it about “wisdom” more or less. But the central teaching of Book 4 is something like “the lawful is just,” and anyway, we’re talking about Socrates here. All of the Memorabilia concerns wisdom.

Book 3 is definitely dedicated to courage and its limits. When the limits of courage arise, they are connected with “shame,” which is something an honor-lover would most certainly fear.

You might ask why all this dithering about a thesis that won’t hold up. The issue is that writing on every single line of the Memorabilia like I would a poem doesn’t just get tiring – I’ve done that for nearly all that I’ve written so far. It also tends to get out of control when there’s stuff you don’t know. I have pages upon pages I haven’t typed up in which I’m guessing at what certain lines could mean.

A rough thesis keeps me focused. It’s pretty much “prove this, don’t prove this.” And there are solid indications that book 1 reduces to the issue of moderation vs. madness. Inasmuch as wisdom is a “lust for knowledge,” it is a kind of madness, yet one that establishes a sort of moderation.

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