Ought to be condemned to keep company with Sisyphus and the Danaids

The concluding paragraph to Frank Cole Babbitt’s introductory essay to his Loeb edition of Plutarch’s Moralia:

The statement is not infrequently made in histories of Greek literature that Plutarch is the one Greek author whose work is improved by being translated.  Those who make or repeat this statement ought to be condemned to keep company with Sisyphus and the Danaids, and to spend their time in the futile attempt to demonstrate how such a statement can be true.

A breeze from a more civilized time.

So that we may acquire a habit of mind not σοφιστικὴν or ἱστορικὴν but ἐνδιάθετον and φιλόσοφον

Below is the conclusion to Plutarch’s On Listening.  The text and translation are from the Loeb edition – Moralia v.1 pg.259 – but I think the translation rather dilutes the point.

Finally, if there be need of any other instruction in regard to listening to a lecture, it is that it is necessary to keep in mind what has here been said, and to cultivate independent thinking along with our learning, so that we may acquire a habit of mind that is not sophistic or bent on acquiring mere information, but one that is deeply ingrained and philosophic, as we may do if we believe that right listening is the beginning of right living.

Εἰ δεῖ τινος οὖν πρὸς ἀκρόασιν ἑτέρου παραγγέλματος, δεῖ καὶ τοῦ νῦν εἰρημένου μνημονεύοντας ἀσκεῖν ἅμα τῇ μαθήσει τὴν εὕρεσιν, ἵνα μὴ σοφιστικὴν ἕξιν μηδ᾿ ἱστορικὴν ἀλλ᾿ ἐνδιάθετον καὶ φιλόσοφον λαμβάνωμεν, ἀρχὴν τοῦ καλῶς βιῶναι τὸ καλῶς ἀκοῦσαι νομίζοντες.

The bolded phrase could get 20+ pages of comparanda and discussion without coming any closer to a satisfying rendering.  My sense would be “so that we may acquire a mental disposition oriented not toward hair-splitting or pedantism but focused on our inner selves and in love with true wisdom.”  The directive, as I read it, is to avoid the distractions of externally-oriented mental activity – wasting energy on the squabbling style of sophists and the small-minded detail focus of data inquiry – and instead turn inward for more Platonic self-cultivation.

But – because it’s never good to be too sure  – here are the relevant LSJ entries (borrowed from Perseus) to offer confounding alternatives.

σοφισ-τικός , ήόν,

A.of or for a sophist, “βίος” Pl.Phdr.248eτὸ ςγένος the class of sophistsId.Sph.224c –κή (sc. τέχνηsophistry, ib.224d, al.

A.exact, precise, scientific, “μίμησις” Pl.Sph.267eτῶν παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοιςεὑρημένων . well-informed respecting . . or able to recount . . Arist.Rh.1359b32; “ἀποδείξεις ἱστορικῶν” Phld.D.1.23. Adv. κῶς scientifically, accuratelyArist.GA757b35by personal observation, “κατ αμαθεῖν τιGal.14.275.
II. belonging to history, historical, “πραγματεῖαι” D.H.1.1τύπος (opp. λογικόςId.Dem.24; “ἀναγραφή” Id.1.4; “γράμματα” Plu.Them.13: Subst., historianArist. Po.1451b1, Aristeas 31Phld.Rh.1.200S.D.H.4.6D.S.1.6, etc.; “ώτατος βασιλέων” Plu.Sert.9. Adv. “κῶςκαὶδιδασκαλικῶς” Str. 1.1.10καὶ ἐξηγητικῶς, opp. ἀποδεικτικῶςPhld.Mus.p.12 K.; but ἐξηγητικώτερον  –ώτερον, of Aristotle’s method in HAAntig.Mir.60.

ἐνδιά-θετος , ον,

A.residing in the mind (ἐν τῇ διαθέσει, opp. ἐν τῇ προφορᾷPorph.Abst.3.3), λόγος conception, thought, opp. προφορικὸς λ. (expression), Stoic.2.43, etc.; of the immanent reason of the world, Ph.1.598ἕξις ib.36Plu.2.48d ἄνθρωποςthe inner man, Corp.Herm.13.7 (s. v. l.).
2. innate, “περιαυτολογία” Plu.2.44a: hence, unaffected, spontaneousHermog.Id.2.7τὸ . ib.1.11, al.
3. τὸ σὸν εἰς ἡμᾶς . your disposition towards us, PAmh.2.145.12(iv/v A. D.). Adv. τως λέγειν speak from the heartHermog.Id.2.7βοᾶν Sch.Arat.968εὔχεσθαι Eust.ad D.P. 739.
II. deep-seated, opp. “ἐπιπόλαιονἄλγημα” Gal.14.739.
2. Adv. fixedly, opp. προσκαίρωςSor.1.92.
A.lover of wisdom; Pythagoras called himself φιλόσοφος, not σοφός, Cic Tusc.5.3.9D.L.Prooem.12; “τὸν φσοφίαςφήσομεν ἐπιθυμητὴν εἶναι πάσης” Pl.R.475b, cf. Isoc.15.271; “ ὡς ἀληθῶς φ.” Pl.Phd.64e sq.; φφύσειτὴν φύσιν, Id.R.376cφτῇ ψυχῇ, opp. φιλόπονος τῷσώματι, Isoc.1.40: used of all men of education and learning, joined with φιλομαθής and φιλόλογος, Pl.R.376c582e; opp. σοφιστής, X.Cyn.13.6,9; later, academician, of the members of the Museum at Alexandria, OGI712 (ii A. D.), etc.
2. philosopher, i. e. one who speculates on truth and reality, οἱ ἀληθινοὶ φ., defined as οἱ τῆςἀληθείας φιλοθεάμονες, Pl.R.475eφιλόσοφος, of Aristotle, Plu.2.115b σκηνικὸςφ., of Euripides, Ath.13.561a; as the butt of Com., Philem.71.1Bato 5.11Anaxipp.4Phoenicid.4.16.
II. as Adj., loving knowledge, philosophic, “ἄνδρεςHeraclit.35; “ἀνήρ” Pl.Phd. 64d; “τὸ φγένοςId.R.501eφφύσις ib.494aψυχή ib.486bδιάνοιαib.527b; “πειθώ” Phld.Rh.1.269 S.σύνεσις ib.p.211S.(Comp.); “οἱ φιλοσοφώτατοι” Pl.R.498a, cf. IG5(1).598 (Sparta).
2. of arguments, sciences, etc., scientific, philosophic, “λόγοι” Pl.Phdr.257bλόγοι –ώτεροι, of instructive speeches, Isoc.12.271; “ώτερον ποίησις ἱστορίας” Arist.Po.1451b5τὸ φ., opp. τὸ θυμοειδές, as an element of the soul, Pl.R.411e, but = φιλοσοφίαPlu.2.355b.
3. ingenious, Ar.Ec.571 (hex.).
III. Adv. “φωςδιακεῖσθαι πρός τι” Isoc. 15.277; “φἔχειν περί τινος” Pl.Phd.91a, cf. Cic.Att.13.20.4, etc.; opp. ῥητορικῶς, Phld. Rh.2.134S.; Comp. “ωτέρως” Arist.Sens.436a20; “ώτερον” Cic.Att.7.8.3. [Ar. l. c. has the penult. long, nowhere else found in poetry.]