Dreaming of Socrates




I had this dream last night: Socrates was telling me about beauty. I could see that Socrates himself was not beautiful–that in fact he looked like an old boxer with a badly healed nose. Because I tend to think in dreams I wondered who broke Socrates’ nose. Was it an Athenian guard or did Plato do it? When I woke up I found that I was troubled by this dream-like nose, the Socratic proboscis.

I shall endeavor today to rid myself of Socrates’ nose, his oneiric busted beak. And good luck to me in this art, for if Plato was correct the ruined nose is a creation of the gods.

Why would the gods break Socrates’ nose while I slept? Surely they can’t still be jealous of this human quest for truth and beauty after 2000 years?

Oh what a nose that was.




0 thoughts on “Dreaming of Socrates

  1. Hmm, it seems as if your sub-conscious is dredging up the following reference (taken from
    http://www.philosophicalmisadventures.com/?p=9 ):
    As reported in Xenophon’s Symposium, Socrates and Critobulus engaged in a discussion of beauty. Socrates, quite famously no beauty himself, was described in Plato’s Theaetetus as having “a snub nose and projecting eyes”. Yet the philosopher did not consider his physical deficiencies a problem; rather, he argued that his flared nostrils enhanced his sense of smell and his bulging eyes gave him enhanced peripheral vision:
    Critobulus: “In faith, my opinion is that beauty is to be found quite as well in a horse or an ox or in any number of inanimate things. I know, at any rate, that a shield may be beautiful, or a sword, or a spear.”
    Socrates: “How can it be that all these things are beautiful when they are entirely dissimilar?”
    “Why, they are beautiful and fine,” answered Critobulus, “if they are well made for the respective functions for which we obtain them, or if they are naturally well constituted to serve our needs.”
    Socrates: “Do you know the reason why we need eyes?”
    Critobulus: “Obviously to see with.”
    “In that case, it would appear without further ado that my eyes are finer ones than yours.”
    “How so?”
    “Because, while yours see only straight ahead, mine, by bulging out as they do, see also to the sides.”
    Critobulus: “Do you mean to say that a crab is better equipped visually than any other creature?”
    Socrates: “Absolutely; for its eyes are also better set to insure strength.”
    Critobulus: “Well, let that pass; but whose nose is finer, yours or mine?”
    Socrates: “Mine, I consider, granting that Providence made us noses to smell with. For your nostrils look down toward the ground, but mine are wide open and turned outward so that I can catch scents from all about.”
    “But how do you make a snub nose handsomer than a straight one?”
    Socrates: “For the reason that it does not put a barricade between the eyes but allows them unobstructed vision of whatever they desire to see; whereas a high nose, as if in despite, has walled the eyes off one from the other.”
    “As for the mouth,” said Critobulus, “I concede that point. For if it is created for the purpose of biting off food, you could bite off a far bigger mouthful than I could. And don’t you think that your kiss is also the more tender because you have thick lips?”
    Socrates: “According to your argument, it would seem that I have a mouth more ugly even than an ass’s. But do you not reckon it a proof of my superior beauty that the River Nymphs, goddesses as they are, bear as their offspring the Seileni, who resemble me more closely than they do you?”
    SK, that you would dream of Socrates’ ugly nose doesn’t seem too surprising to me. Your views on perceived disabilities seems closely aligned with Socrates arguments in this regard, and are a popular theme of your blog. E.g., http://www.planet-of-the-blind.com/2010/04/disability-vs-universal-citizens.html
    And yet, I must say, that I’ve always been somewhat ill-at-ease with the global notion of a no-disabilities-only-differences philosophy of which you and Socrates write. I view the issue somewhat differently, and I think I’ve expressed my beliefs before to some extent on this blog in one context or another: http://www.planet-of-the-blind.com/2010/03/disability-and-its-discontents.html#comments
    In my ecological model of disability, so many variables exist for both organism and environment, it’s pert’ near impossible to predict or even retrospectively understand associations that influence individual outcomes. And yet, looking at populations, certain traits, qualities and circumstances are more associated with specific outcomes. “Disabilities” (blindness as an example), with some outstandingly wonderful examples (take a bow, SK), historically and currently have higher percentages of people who economically and socially have greater than average risk of not doing as well as their counterparts with “average” abilities. I’m still struck by the 2001 report of employment for people with vision impairment in the European Union where the highest employment rate for the blind was Spain (70%), even when some socialist (this is not a dirty word in my vocabulary) countries like Sweden are bending over backwards to redistribute wealth so that accessible work opportunities are provided to anyone who expresses a desire to be employed. The reason Spain’s blind people have such high rates of employment is because national lottery ticket sales are exclusively reserved as an occupation for people with vision impairments. But how many children express the desire that, when they grow up, they want to sell lottery tickets?
    This little conundrum buzzes around in my head no matter how hard I might try to swat it away. In an attempt to balance my more cynical views, I seek out and monitor viewpoints such as yours, and, while I’m still far from convinced, certainly benefit from the various perspectives expressed by yourself and other contributors. So, dream on, SK! Some day I’d like to see you prove me dead wrong. If Robert Byrd, may he rest in glorious peace, can go from being a segregationist to ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Act, from supporting the conflice in Vietnam to opposing the war in Iraq during his lifetime, there’s always hope for me.


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