August 12, 2022

The right word

Few authors have been as have actually on the focused of the word as Gustave Flaubert. His literary programme included an admonition to always look for out le mot juste– the most correct, a lot of suitable word for the context.

The Right Word

They do it in Paris! Madame Bovarys fan exclaims at one point. And Flaubert is fast to talk about the statements life-altering consequences: that remark, like an alluring argument, chose her. Later On, Emma Bovary is struck by the truth that she has a fan, and this singular word– A fan!– is powerful enough to advise her of the heroines of the books she had read. The simple recollection of these siblings makes the lyrical throng of adulterous ladies break into tune for her. Emma Bovarys life is formed in accordance with the too-lofty dreams that poetry has actually been spinning in her– and not simply in her. Flaubert has actually said that Madame Bovary is everyone, as we fall victim to the sexy words that rotate around us, the stories that call us to worlds beyond those where we really live. Words– the words Emma Bovary reads, composes and, in the course of living her own life, looks for to embody– offer a line of flight for desires suffocated by the strictures of nineteenth century French bourgeois culture.

The Right Word

Undoubtedly, this is how shes represented in a fragment from the well-known Greek sophist Gorgias (likewise called the namesake of one of Platos dialogues): as victim to the seductive powers of logos. Gorgias brief encomium for Helen presents a convincing defense of the bad woman, who is a frequent things of ridicule and derision at the hands of other Greek writers. In opposition to the popular claim that Helen was the reason for the bloody Trojan war, Gorgias argues that she was absolutely nothing however a pawn in the hands of greater powers. The list of such powers is long: Gorgias lists, to begin with, such greats as destiny, gods, necessity..

The Right Word

The Death of Madame Bovary. Musee des Beaux Arts, Rouen © SuperStock/Leemage.

The Right Word

Pharmakon: a word that symbolizes both medication and drug, treatment and poison, all depending on dose and context. When it comes to Emma Bovary, the words aspirational promises ultimately turn, completely, into hardship and death by arsenic..

The Right Word

If we strike out these and all similar things, well plead Homer and the other poets not to be harsh. Its not that they are not poetic and sweet for the many to hear, however the more poetic they are, the less should they be heard by men and young boys who must be complimentary and familiar with fearing slavery more than death.

The Right Word

The dream of a various life as portrayed through the heroes and heroines of literature appears now as remedy, now as toxin, now as an essential leap from the dread of living, now as damning impression. Distinguishing remedy from toxin is not constantly simple.


A word, and everything is saved. A word, and all is lost.


As a rhetorician, Gorgias knows better than the majority of that words have the power to both alleviate and instill worry, to motivate both tears and laughter, love both promote and hatred– words are both poison and cure. Using a term with which we are currently familiar, he compares the convincing quality of the word to the effects of a strong intoxicant, discussing that the word is a pharmakon (φάρμακον): For discourse was the persuader of the soul, which it convinced and obliged to believe the things that were said and to agree to the things that were done..

There is a fascinating ancient equivalent to the awful hero or heroine, another fictional character who, some state, let herself be bewitched by powerful words and in so doing brought on the failure of whole societies: the gorgeous Helen.

The works of Cervantes and Flaubert represent landmarks in an abundant literary custom that explores the relationship between lived reality and idealistic dreams, concentrating on the friction at the conference point in between the severe facts of truth and the dreams we indulge to leave from those realities. Life is at once here and now– with all its dullness and vacuum– and marked by the birth pains brought on by the imagine an in other places which is engraved into peoples imaginary by words. The question is how deep into the land of dreams a person can venture prior to she loses touch with truth. What, exactly, are the enigmatic mechanisms at work at the heart of the word? By which means do words, composed and spoken, captivate a person to such a degree that she pertains to consider herself as destined for a life various from the one she is living, and herself as being somebody she is not? From whence comes the power that convinces an individual to battle windmills, believing them wicked giants?

André Breton

This is the inspiration for Platos rigorous and systematic research study of the representative arts. He invests significant time on the Homeric songs, which in his view possess the unsafe capability to support the hazardous drives as they talk to the souls absurd part by highlighting the aggressive and sexual desires that push away people from the gods, each other and their true selves. Responding to the concern of who or what is misinforming the youth– the allegation leveled at Socrates– Plato rather posits sophists, writers and classical literature as offenders. The remedy is discovered in the art of philosophy, which must be given jurisdiction of the word; thinkers should be made kings of the state with the right to manage which stories circulate in the body politic. To make and safeguard a reasonable and righteous order, viewpoint should secure individuals from exposure to just any histories, formed by simply anybody..

Platos analysis rests on a more detailed reflection on the most righteous way to integrate the 3 constitutive elements of a political community: production (the distribution of work); recreation (the guideline of sexual relations); and defense (the organization of the military might of the polis). The Republic takes it as evident that these 3 components can only work in show when supported by reason inculcated by methodical fostering and education of the people– through the communication of the right words..

Platos fear of sexy words destructive potential is obvious in The Republic, a text that is an early instance of the melding of philosophy and politics, of power and understanding, with specific attention to wrongful and harmful words. Plato is concentrated on the words ability to spread out through the body politic and get in the souls like a virus, a poison. The word spreads by taking hold of peoples accessories and emotions, hence conquering souls. The Republic makes the observation that Cervantes and Flaubert would later on illustrate so eloquently: poetry can make whomever think that she is whatever which she deserves to whichever flexibilities she selects. Seduced by the word, the servant might suddenly think he is a master, the lady that shes a male, the man that hes a lady, the kid that they are a grown individual, the grown person that they are a child, and so on.

A word, and whatever is conserved. A word, and all is lost.

And yet, Plato is convinced that transgressive desires can not be tamed by truth alone. Extra tools are essential to keep the ridiculous power of Eros at bay. Among The Republics essential passages states that even philosophers are sometimes needed to utilize a crowd of lies and deceptions in the kind of creative myths and pedagogical plays in order to join the population– a minimum of when it comes to the city that fits in speeches. Therefore, we discover that even Platos promised cure– philosophy– must imitate the really toxin– rhetoric– it was supposed to free us from..

Platos fear of sexy words harmful capacity is obvious in The Republic, a text that is an early instance of the melding of viewpoint and politics, of power and understanding, with particular attention to unsafe and wrongful words. Once once again, word is pitted against word, viewpoint against rhetoric, and the recovery power of fact versus the dangerous art of the word that runs the risk of executing a bad regime in the soul of each personal man.

This is where Platos believing around the components of recreation and the guideline of drives in general turns really interesting, as we are told that the job is one of suppressing any desire (Plato utilizes the term epithymia) that swells beyond step, any desire not inspired by requirement as it tempts individuals to satisfy drives that are beyond the rigorous needs of nature and neighborhood (chreia). State-mandated education involves the fixation of the proper procedure and object of desire: a person can not want more than her particular lot in life, can not desire anything that is not hers.

Plato and Aristotle in Raphaels 1509 fresco The School of Athens. Picture from Wikimedia Commons..

Don Quixote and Sancho with wind turbines. Sotavento, Xermade, Galicia (Spain). Image by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga) from Wikimedia Commons.

This is the gotten rid of part of the soul– the part of male constituted of unregulated drives– which the state is entrusted with managing to secure society from the feverish effects that would result from its flexibility. Plato argues that extreme growing is needed to keep this desire in check, a full device of pedagogical tools. Great education and kid rearing is not sufficient. Human speech and its communicative channels should be under consistent security given that even a couple of loose words can have the power to awaken the transgressive drives. The task of political censorship is therefore about managing who mentions what..

Since they permeate so deep into individualss souls, Plato highlights that these portrayals are hazardous exactly. In some locations he sounds nearly like Gorgias who, as we saw, declares that discourse encourages and obliges the soul to think the important things that were stated and to concur to the things that were done. Elsewhere, the thinker looks like an antecedent to those who would, much later, accuse Madame Bovary of damaging morals and the holy concepts that connect woman and guy, adult and kid, creator and produced, private and society..


the wild and beastly part, gorged with food or beverage … looks for to go and satisfy its dispositions. You know that in such a state it dares to do whatever as though it were launched from, and rid of all embarassment and prudence. And it doesnt shrink from attempting intercourse, as it expects, with a mom or with anyone else at all– human beings, gods, and beasts; or attempting any nasty murder at all, and there is no food from which it abstains.

As a rhetorician, Gorgias understands much better than the majority of that words have the power to both minimize and instill worry, to influence both tears and laughter, like both promote and hatred– words are both toxin and treatment. Utilizing a term with which we are already familiar, he compares the convincing quality of the word to the impacts of a strong intoxicant, describing that the word is a pharmakon (φάρμακον): For discourse was the persuader of the soul, which it convinced and obliged to think the things that were said and to concur to the things that were done..

His primary problems are not about the bewitching power of the word when Plato takes on Gorgias and the sophists. Rather, Plato debates in what scenarios an individual deserves to use the word. Contrary to Gorgiass concentrate on an art of persuasion that might shackle individuals, Plato presents an approach of the word as planned to enlighten the listener or reader about the right, the true, the beautiful. The difficulty with the sophists, he states, is that they limit themselves to mentor (for compensation!) the art of persuasion, without any issue for the material of their persuasion. True or incorrect, bad or excellent, exemplary or unethical– it holds no weight for the sophists. Instead, their primary goal is merely to change the listeners mind to whatever the speaker is currently upholding or discovers helpful. Approach, in contrast, topics itself to the greater goal of creating knowledge about that which is, at last, true, great and stunning. This requires a mindful research study of the words that distribute in the people, a research study intended to separate the best word from the incorrect. Le mot juste: the right word is likewise the exemplary word.

Like Cervantes, Flaubert and Gorgias, Plato is studying the desires that put the individual in conflict with herself and the existing order, dissecting the disorderly love (Eros) that makes a person desire she were somebody other than the person she is and is anticipated to be, consequently making her a destabilizing aspect in the delicately well balanced distribution of functions interests, and jobs that hold a society together. Plato cautions that there remains in every male some awful, lawless and savage form of desires, desires that make themselves understood the minute we released the reins, for example, throughout sleep. This is when.

Once again, word is pitted versus word, philosophy versus rhetoric, and the healing power of truth versus the toxic art of the word that runs the risk of implementing a bad routine in the soul of each personal male. In his examination of the Homeric songs, Plato reserves particular reject for the passages that depict gods and heroes as weak in spirit and easily led astray by the flesh, for circumstances when Zeus is depicted as misled by sensual pleasure. Even the strongest warriors enable themselves to be subdued by female emotions in these tunes, making them bad role designs for the youth:.

Plato proposes replacing unsafe tales of classical literature with stunning stories (logois te kalois) and useful stories that model a way of living and an exemplary peace with everyones natural tasks. Gods and decent males should be upheld as lodestars in the worthy art of taking the reins of themselves and getting their own houses in order. Le mot juste is the word of fact and self-discipline, which treatments man of his desire to live other lives, in other worlds..

Words– the words Emma Bovary checks out, composes and, in the course of living her own life, seeks to embody– use a line of flight for desires suffocated by the strictures of 19th century French bourgeois culture.

There are some individuals, La Rochefoucauld writes, who would never have fallen in love if they had not heard there was such a thing. This may be taking it too far. However following Cervantes, we can say at least that there are people who would never have imagined themselves knights if they had not read books about knights..