Tuesday, March 3, 2009

From Plato to Pedantry

A passage from my forthcoming play, Diogenes:

TYRANNOSAURUS: Now show us someone else.  We aren’t getting very far.

DEAN OF PHILOSOPHERS: Hmm.  As Athens is a city rich in departments and bureaus, perhaps our Stoic here can help.  He is very popular amongst the clerks, having solved all their problems with remarkable alacrity.  You, Stoic! What can you add to our understanding of this affair?

STOIC: With all due respect, sir, your affair is completely out of your control, sir, and all that is not in control is immaterial, sir.

IONEDES: I didn’t quite catch that.

TYRANNOSAURUS: Never mind him, Ionedes.  He is another bore.

DEAN OF PHILOSOPHERS: Gentleman, might I suggest Starchild, Junior; the philosopher at the end?  He is from Athens’ most widely renowned school; and one of his students, Aristotle, as I say, was in fact the teacher of Alexander.

TYRANNOSAURUS: From the school that taught Alexander’s teacher!  By all means, let the man speak.

DEAN OF PHILOSOPHERS: There's a good fellow:  Tell these men what you know best?

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: I am wise in what Suarolophus calls ‘matters of love.’

IONEDES: This is more like it.  How can I find my daughter?  How can Tyrannosaurus find his son?

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: But when I say I am wise in love, I do not mean, as in Baryonyx’s popular definition of the term, the love of people. It is, as Dacentrus and Deinocheirus have urged, the soul that I love; and in loving the soul I love love, much in the way that Ornatotholus interprets the meditations of Deinodon.

TYRANNOSAURUS: It seems very pleasant to think in this way, but what about our children?

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: Your children are but copies of greater ideas existing where existence is real, as Hypsilophodon has said in a brilliant recent discussion.  As Hypsilophodon would further point out, your children, like everything that you behold—the sky, the earth, the sea, and all that lives—are imitations of invisible ideas existing outside our universe.  Even the circumstance of your children missing is a pattern that copies an image that exists where images are real, which agrees closely with what Troodon has often urged.

DEAN OF PHILOSOPHERS: We're getting somewhere, Tyrannosaurus.  For if we can see the image of where they really are, then locating their duplicates here in Athens should be a snap. (snaps his fingers, and points at STARCHILD, JUNIOR) And where do these real images exist?

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: Nowhere: because if they were anywhere they would not exist, as Hypsilophodon has so persuasively argued.

TYRANNOSAURUS: So that even if we find them we haven't really found them?

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: To recapitulate Velocipes’ seminal phrase, ‘what you say is true.’

TYRANNOSAURUS: So that by your logic our search is futile.

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: Opinions are vague as to the specific question of your specific search, but as Astrodon has written in his neo-pragmatic demotion of philosophy to the recitation of officially authorized modes of discourse, your search is but an imitation of the pattern of the real search where images are real.

IONEDES: This is ridiculous. Why do you pursue this with him?

TYRANNOSAURUS: Because these are the teachings known to Alexander.

STARCHILD, JUNIOR: Gentlemen, do not become discouraged. As Saltopus might suggest, we are making progress. Our proceedings are indeed following the pattern set forth for philosophical discussion in the ideal state—indeed, exactly as Astrodon argues in his famous formulation.

(Enter ACHILLES and CHRYSIS followed by DIOGENES.)

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