Monday, June 22, 2015
Homer's concealed Odysseus .
Homer (Odyssey, VIII, 83 ff.) tells how Odysseus, in the Phaeacian king's palace, covered his head each time at the minstrel Demodocus' song, whether happy or sad, and thus hidden from those present, wept. Verse 93 runs: ενθ' αλλους μέν πάντας έλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων. Consistent with the spirit of our own language, we translate: "Then he shed tears, without all the others noticing it." The German translation by Voss comes closer to what the Greek says, since it carries the important verb έλάνθανε over into the German formulation: "He concealed his flowing tears from all the other guests." Έλάνθανε, however, does not mean the transitive "he concealed," but "he remained concealed"—as the one who was shedding tears. "Remaining concealed" is the key word in the Greek. German, on the other hand, says: he wept, without the others noticing it. Correspondingly, we translate the well-known Epicurean admonition λάθε βιώσας as "Live in hiding." Thought from a Greek perspective, this saying means: "As the one who leads his life, remain concealed (therein)." Concealment here defines the way in which a man should be present among others. By the manner of its saying, the Greek announces that concealing— and therefore at the same time remaining unconcealed—exercises a commanding preeminence over every other way in which what is present comes to presence. The fundamental trait of presencing itself is determined by remaining concealed and unconcealed. One need not begin with a seemingly capricious etymology of άληθεσία in order to experience how universally the presencing of what is present comes to language only in shining, self-manifesting, lying-before, arising, bringing- itself-before, and in assuming an outward appearance.
All this, in its undisturbed harmony, would be unthinkable within Greek existence and language if remaining-concealed/remaining-unconcealed did not hold sway as that which really has no need to bring itself expressly to language, since this language itself arises from it.
Accordingly, the Greek experience in the case of Odysseus does not proceed from the premise that the guests present are represented as subjects who in their subjective behavior fail to grasp weeping Odysseus as an object of their perception. On the contrary, what governs the Greek experience is a concealment surrounding the one in tears, a concealment which isolates him from the others. Homer does not say: Odysseus concealed his tears. Nor does the poet say: Odysseus concealed himself as one weeping. Rather, he says: Odysseus remained concealed. We must ponder this matter ever more strenuously, even at the risk of becoming diffuse and fastidious. A lack of sufficient insight into this problem will mean, for us, that Plato's interpretation of presencing as ΐδέα remains either arbitrary or accidental.
Pp 106-7
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