Thursday, 21 June 2012

All Greek....

Half a million school leavers sat down to the First Test yesterday - Italian.  The examination, taken by all, had a number of essay titles from which the examinees choose one and then write for the whole day (the invitation to write on the labyrinth, with excerpts from Ariosto, Calvino, Borges and Eco, plus paintings by Picasso, Pollock and Escher, was particularly fine).

Today they separate into their specialist schools, writing on specific material.  For the Classical Lyceum, this year, the Unseen is  Greek (it alternates with Latin annually).

Aristotle – De partibus animalium I, (A), 5, 645 a 

is   offering all its complexity and imagery to their best efforts even as we take our elevenses.  They have been at it since 8.30 this morning.  The papers are now providing translations, interpretations, profound thoughts (everyone is re-living their own trial by fire, as the whole country does, obsessively, every year in June) while they continue, locked away in the examination halls, but this is a very tricky passage and Aristotle - always and rightly feared -  hasn't turned up in the Unseen since 1978.

Here is an interpretation from Merton (Oxford still does Greek), which refutes, among others, Heidegger's effort.

 'Heraclitus can be seen in the anecdote as inviting his visitors to join him in the kitchen by appealing to their common archaic heritage, and the way he does that provides a delightful illustration for the point Aristotle wants to make about the study of animals. Just as Heraclitus encouraged the visitors to waive their conventional scruples and join him in the kitchen by suggesting that the ordinary fire in the oven is as divine and hospitable as the consecrated fire of the hearth, Aristotle encourages his audience to over- come their puerile revulsion towards the examination of the humbler animals by saying that there is something wonderful in them as well as in other things of nature, including the better respected animals and, ultimately, the stars which are appreciated as divine and well worthy of study. The wonderful thing is, of course, the purposefulness which pervades the whole natural world and which is the counterpart of the beautiful (tÚ kalÒn)in things of art. And because of that, Aristotle exhorts his audience to forget their distaste for certain kinds of animals and to open their minds to the systematic treatment of animals which he is about to supply.'


Elby the Beserk said...

Excellent, HG, many thanks. When we do get brawls in football matches, as per the Calcio, the TV cameras swing away, and the commentators intone

"The fans don't want to see that".

Oh yes they DO!

Balotelli in a loin cloth on Sunday do you think? He is a fine figure of a man, to be sure.

hatfield girl said...

Elby, you're failing your Maturita'.

You're supposed to be considering the inter-relatedness of purposefulness and beauty as the matched attributes of science and of art - not liking punch-ups.

Sackerson said...

That reminds me of this:

"... I wonder whether I ought to
remind my lawyer of the Barnsley
coalminer who sought compensation
for an injury.

"The case appeared to be turning on
a certain point of law whereby no
injury is done to one who consents.
Intervening, the judge asked the
miner's counsel: "Has your client not heard of Volenti non fit injuria?"

"Counsel considered for a moment,
and replied: "My Lord, they talk of
little else in Barnsley.""

Raedwald said...

Oh dear I never got much beyond

The girl sees the sailors
The girl likes the sailors
The sailors like the girl
The girl gives apples to the sailors

Even at 12, this seemed so improbable an interaction on the part of both the sailors and the girl that I threw the latin textbook, Puella, Nautae, Poma and all, away. It was written, I think, by a very confused clergyman who seemed to have formed no clear idea of the distinction between Agape, Eros, Philia and Storge ...

a musician said...


No, not Pirlo. Just look at this:

In the Rinascimento it was known as Sprezzatura: the art of doing something incredibly difficult as if it is the easiest thing in the world.
It was a term used by Cavalieri (as in cavaliers, not the composer), who had to learn to ride their horses "sprezzanti del pericolo": fearlessly.

It turned into a musical term: no matter how complex and ornamented the melody line, particularly if sung, it must sound effortless.

There's Hart, flapping his arms, pulling faces, throwing himself to the ground, rolling about feet in the air; Pirlo thinks about it for a few seconds, tiptoes over (just three little steps), and taps the ball gently with the side of his foot, which just happens to roll in between the goalposts.

Sprezzatura, that's what he's showing us.