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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 12. July 3, 1952

Plato Re-Plated

Plato Re-Plated

Sir,—I feel that although there is some justification for "Aristotle's" criticism of the Staff Student Debate remarks which appeared above my name. I feel also that that criticism applies less strongly when it is realised that, far from being intended as an accurate report of the proceedings, the article—for such I shall call it for want of a better title—was written solely for the purpose of conveying an impression. In a note to the Editor which accompanied the piece in question I specifically referred to it as such. I shall say nothing about "Aristotle's" charge of turgidity—a quality which has before now been attributed to my writings and which I am coming slowly to believe they may to some extent display. I would point out, however, that I am not entirely unaware of the defects (other than turgidly, perhaps) which the article had in common with the debate. To quote again from my note to the Editor. "If this seems a little rambling, so was the debate."

To come to "Aristotle's" main points, however. First of all, he says that I made a "peculiar statement that the debate was not well attended."

I did not. I wrote. "It is fairly safe to predict that audiences will once more be small if we cannot do better than that....."

And that is exactly what was printed. Surely, that cannot be construed to mean that the audience in question was small? Rather, it seems to me to imply that the audience on the particular night was quite satisfactorily large. It was, of course, much larger than it has been on many occasions before. In any case I made no "statement" to the effect that the "debate was not well attended." It is possibly not a Pythagorean system of mathematics which is to blame for Aristotle's puzzlement. Perhaps English is a strange language to him. With "Aristotle's" Judgment of Mr. Milburn's speech I cannot but agree. I confess to having made no mention of it—an omission I am ashamed of. But I would point out once more that I was writing not a report but an impression. The impression was one of disappointment in the low standard of the debate and in the flippant approach. Since Mr. Milburn's speech did not suffer from these disturbing defects I made no individual mention of it. "Aristotle" will, perhaps, recall that I did write that the "students ... did at least give an impression of sincerity and earnestness."

At the risk of becoming tedious I will repeat that I wrote an impression; in the light of tins is "Aristotle's" charge that I "appear to be more exercised in aiming my own opinions about the subject" not somewhat unfair? I was not so doing. I mentioned a few points of view and an approach which were entirely neglected by the principals in the debate, and which appeared to me to have sufficient bearing on the subject to have warranted their inclusion in the discussion. I may also mention in passing that the "opinions" are by no means peculiar to me.

Finally. "Aristotle" suggests that I may have been influenced in my choice of name by my "distrust of equalltarian democracy." To begin with I do not distrust it. The properly educated man, the (dare I say" so?) cultured man, is one who is among other things, able to see a question from several different "frames of reference." in terms of different relative points of view. Thus, in terms of building up a respect for the University as an institution and as a body of teachers and students equalitarian democracy 'is distinctly unhelpful. From many other points of view I should be prepared to defend and support It. In any case, If my memory does not fail me, Aristotle was even more distrustful of equslitarian democracy than was Plato.

One last word on the choice of a suitable name under which I might cover from the onslaughts of my brother (?) philosophers. I have always been intrigued by the name of Plato, possibly because of the sternly suppressed connection it always has in my mind, which I admit is rather inadequate, with Pluto. Aside from this which is very dating I'm afraid, and extremely puerile. I have always understood that Plato was an admirer of the dialectic; a form which in sufficiently close to debating to lead me to use the name I did. By the way, I was most certainly there from beginning to end of the proceedings. In fact I arrived at ten to eight, and am prepared to answer any questions which "Aristotle" may care to put to me concerning the evening. It is highly probable that "Aristotle" saw me: but it is just as well that he did not recognise me. When Greek meets Greek.....