Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking the Mold

“Ah miserable poverty! Why do you weigh upon my shoulders and debase both my body and my noos*? Forcibly and against my will, you teach me many base things, though I am one among men who understands what is noble and beautiful.”
- Theognis of Megara (649–652)

*Noos is akin to noein which means 'to realize', 'to see in its true colours'; and often it may be translated as 'to see' . . . . but it stands for a type of seeing which involves not merely visual activity but the mental act which goes with the vision . . . . it means to acquire a clear image of something. Hence the significance of noos. It is the mind as a recipient of clear images, or more briefly, the organ of clear images: Il. 16.688 'The noos of Zeus is ever stronger than that of men'. Noos is, as it were, the mental eye which exercises an unclouded vision. But given a slight shift which in Greek is easily managed, noos may come to denote the function rather than the organ . . . . the meaning 'mind' shades off into the notion of 'thinking' . . . . From here it is only a short step, and noos will signify also the individual act, the individual image, or the thought. We read, for instance, that someone thinks a noos.

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