Friday, May 29, 2015

"He is a wise man who invented beer" - Plato

For claiming not to know anything, this dude
knew more about the universe than pretty much
most of society today.
The famous and beloved barkeep's platonic quote is a strong statement, which also communicates a certain level of intellectualism. After all, who has the time to scour through the platonic dialogues in order to find a cherry picked quote? As it turns out, I am one such bar man.

I've been reading Plato lately. Not because of the quote, but rather, because "Why not?" In fact, the quote is of little interest to me, because I already know that Plato never wrote those things down in any of his dialogues. And of course, the reason I know, is because I saw the quote before and decided to look it up on the Google. As it turns out, in none of Plato's dialogues is the word beer ever even mentioned. You can imagine the feelings of embarrassment that creeped into my head when my former place of employment decided to add the quote, and credit to Plato, to the cocktail menu.

The french have a saying for this, and it is "Le sigh."

Nevertheless, it is not only a good quote, but it is also true. Beer certainly is a wise invention to the people who enjoy it, and therefore, the creator of the fine draught must also be wise! Or well... actually, I guess it's more likely that beer was discovered by accident, similarly to the other fermented goodies that we enjoy, such as wine. So I suppose that you can't really call the inventor wise in that regard. But one thing you could say, is that they were definitely in the right place at the right time! And because they witnessed that relatively common of biochemical reactions, we can all get drunk whenever we please!

Well, we can always take solace in the idea that if Plato is half as smart as the people who believed in this misquote,
then he'd probably be about as smart as most of us are today. And he might also drink obnoxious amounts of beer and say,
"Dude, bro! Look at that quote I made!"
Well, not whenever we please, but whenever we are able to, I suppose.

"He is a wise man who invented Lamb sandwiches" ~ Moses
While beer is indeed good, and Plato might agree with us about the quality of taste, one other point of agreement he might have with us is that there isn't any wisdom in discovering beer. In fact, one of the take home messages of Plato's early writings, the Socratic dialogues, is that are no wise people. Socrates (to whom Plato was a pupil and associate) was sentenced to death, defending his accusations that the people who claim to be wise aren't wise, and the wisest of them all is himself, for being the only person to realize that he has no wisdom at all; being the only person aware and willing to admit of his own ignorance, he is better off than those who claim to be wise.

So Plato most likely never called anyone wise on behalf of inventing beer. But to speak as Plato would, I would like to make an inquiry in regard to whether it's possible that Plato could have said such a thing, outside of his dialogues? Since Plato - frequently writing in the voice of Socrates - would caveat many of his arguments with flattering comments regarding the wisdom of his arguers, it is possible that he may have said such a thing regarding one who brews beer. But we must also assent to the fact that it was a frequent mode of both Plato and Socrates to compliment their arguers in such a way regarding the arts or sciences that they held dear, only to tear them down later in the argument. So in regard to that format of argument, it's doubtful that Plato would have thought someone was wise for inventing beer, but it is possible that he had said it and that someone would have taken his comment out of context in regard to his larger argument.

Little known fact. Plato also used a beer cozy. 
Plato most likely never called someone wise for inventing beer. In fact, the earlier mentioned Google search revealed that Plato never even spoke about beer, which in my own reading of Plato I can also acknowledge. Although, it is a good line, so I may continue using it. Of course, I'll use it with the caveat of my own; "Words which Plato never uttered."

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