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Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Devil To Pay












































If I was a young twelve year old boy, I know which book I would rather be reading, but unfortunately, Maria Zannini’s excellent book was not written then and so my Year Seven class had to make do with Plato’s ‘The Gorgias’. Less stimulating in many respects but safer in terms of a long term career.

My problem was how to make a Socratic dialogue interesting and engage them in argument. This was a time when corporal punishment was still common in schools, usually in the form of a cane being thwacked on the hand, or sometimes the bottom.

The dialogue below was read through gritted teeth. None of them agreed with Socrates, and many ended up thoroughly disliking him, thinking he was just too smart for his own good. Some would have administered the hemlock much earlier than it was. Their homework assignment was to defeat Socrates in argument by giving Polus more balls.

The ending here is slightly different than that offered to the class :)

THE CANE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL

SOCRATES:
Do you think being brought to justice and being rightly punished for one’s crimes the same thing?

POLUS:
I do

SOCRATES:
Are you prepared to admit that all just acts are beautiful in proportion to their justice? Think carefully before you answer.

POLUS:
Yes, Socrates. I really do think so

SOCRATES:

Then consider this: when a man performs any act, must there be something to be operated on by the agent?

POLUS:
I believe so.

SOCRATES:
And does that something undergo what the agent performs? For example if a man performs an act of striking, something must necessarily must be hit.

POLUS:
Necessarily

SOCRATES:
And if a striker hits hard or quickly, the object struck must be hit in the same manner.

POLUS:
Yes.

SOCRATES:
So the effect on the object struck is of the same sort as the action of the agent striking.

POLUS:
Quite so.

SOCRATES:
So again when a man does the act of burning, something must be burned.

POLUS:
Naturally.

SOCRATES:
And if he burns severely, or painfully, what is burned must be burned exactly the way the burning agent burns it.

POLUS:
Quite so.

SOCRATES:
So also when a man cuts, does the same argument apply? That is, there is something which is cut?

POLUS:
Yes

SOCRATES:
And if the cutting is big or deep or painful, the cut made in the object which is being cut will be of the same sort as the cuts of the cutting agent.

POLUS:
It seems so

SOCRATES:
Well then, with these admissions made, let me ask you whether being brought to justice is to undergo something or to do it?

POLUS:
Necessarily, Socrates, it is to undergo.

SOCRATES:
Then it is at the hands of some agent or other?

POLUS:
Naturally, at the hands of the man who inflicts the punishment.

SOCRATES:
And does the man who punishes rightly punish justly?

POLUS:
Yes


SOCRATES:

Is his action just or unjust?

POLUS:
It is just

SOCRATES:
And what is just we have admitted to be beautiful

POLUS:
Quite so.

SOCRATES:
Then of this pair, one performs beautiful the other suffers beautiful acts

POLUS:
Yes

SOCRATES:
So a man who is brought to justice suffers what is good

POLUS:
It looks like it

SOCRATES:
Then he is benefited.

POLUS:
But that book you won't let me read.

SOCRATES
The Zannini woman? You know I don't approve.

POLUS
But if I made love to the woman in the picture...it will be beautiful, so will she be enjoying a beautiful act?

SOCRATES:
Steady, Polus, steady.

POLUS:
Please, Socrates, please

SOCRATES:
It will cost you, boy, but Amazon do a good deal.

POLUS:
And if she caned me, that would be an even more beautiful act.

7 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

ROTFL!

I think you crossed some boundaries even I didn't attempt in The Devil To Pay.

Thank you for making my day. I've seen all sorts of ways to introduce a book, but yours takes the cake.

I bow to your unique approach. You must have given some amazing lectures in class.

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Maria. I wanted to say something. The rest? Blame it on the plum wine.

Last bottle gone now :(

Mike Keyton said...

Just testing my google account

Claudia Del Balso said...

Hi Mike,
this dialogue is so witty ;)
I bet my dear friend who's a professor at the U and fan of Plato, Socrates, and Nietzsche would appreciate this dialogue.
Nicely done!
Congrats to Maria on her latest novel. :)

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks, Claudia. I must admit, The Devil To Pay gives a zing to Socrates!

Shirley Wells said...

Wow. I'm impressed!

So, um, how many times did you have to read Maria's book as research for this post?

Mike Keyton said...

So, um, how many times did you have to read Maria's book as research for this post?

Socrates said no! :)