After a lengthy hiatus, Lion and Ox engage in a lazy summer dialogue in which they compare certain aspects of their own mode of eating to the habits of the philosopher.

Ox: Ah, summer once again Lion! A time to stand around for hours idly, yet contentedly chewing the cud in the warm summer sunshine. Think of it! All that ruminating and digesting. Frankly, I pity you, you carnivores that only appear to enjoy your food for a brief moment!

Chewing the Cud | GRACE in TORAH

Lion: Ox, thank you for your expression of pity, but to be honest, the digestive habits of your class, Bos Taurus, disgust me. I mean no offence! For my part I am thankful to our beneficent Creator that He was so kind as to not not create me Kine. (chuckling) I hope you appreciate my pun, Ox! Get it Kine and Kind? (chuckling some more)

Ox: A rather simple pun, Lion if we can even call it that. But then again you always did enjoy simple humor. Your humor is based on the mere superficial likeness in sounds of words! The more sophisticated mind takes delight in a deeper sort of puns – puns that explore various layers of meaning that a single word has.

But here again, you exemplify my point. Your class, those of the mammalia carnivora felidae, particularly you panthera, are not especially known for deep cogitation.

A closer look at lion evolution offers hope for saving the big cats

Lion: I don’t quite grasp your point, Ox

Ox: Of course you don’t Lion. You simply do not have the stomach for it. (chuckling) You see, think of the rich analogy between the digestive system in the Bos Taurus and the intellectual habits of the true philosopher! No beast without a quadruplexed digestive system in which the same food is digested for hours even days on end, could possibly understand the life and daily pastimes of the authentic philosopher!

Lion: your analogy is lost on me, my dear Ox!. I see no similarity between the intellectual habits of the authentic philosopher and your disgusting digestive tract.

The ruminant digestive system

Ox: It’s too obvious and I confess it would pain me to be compelled to spell it out more explicitly. You know… ars est celare artem, and all that.

Lion: Ox, if I may offer a little advice, I think you would be more effective if you ‘cut to the chase’ as I am fond of saying …and doing! (chuckles) You spend too much time making yourself unclear. Certainly you are a master of circumlocution, and I suppose this reflects your circumambulatory habits, but really, who among us has the time?!

Ox: I merely mean to highlight the reflective, pondering habits of the philosopher who loves nothing more than to think about something for a long time.

The genuine philosopher ‘chews’ on an idea and thoroughly squeezes each thought carefully, lest something of nourishment might be neglected.

He is never content with thinking about something once, but is always happy to ‘bring it up again,’ so to speak, return to a matter a second and third time, and often even again throughout his entire life.

He is a man of second thoughts. And third thoughts and so on!

In fact the philosopher is apt to say that it is only those ideas that are capable of endless reflection that really have any value at all!

In short, the philosopher might be called the chief and paradigm of those who ruminate!

Rodin's The Thinker | Cleveland Museum of Art

Lion: It occurs to me that you really have overthought this matter Ox.

Ox: Lion, what else are these bodily matters for other than to stir our minds towards the spiritual? The body is an organ of the soul! And these mere bodily matters provide rich fodder for the soul’s contemplation! Doesn’t the analogy delight you?

Lion: I admit that you have succeeded in drawing some likeness of the intellectual method of the philosopher to your habits of consumption and perpetual munching and digesting, but, for that matter, I can see an even more delightful analogy – a more appealing likeness between the philosopher and my own methods of satiating the inclinations for nourishment!

Ox: You can?

Lion: Indeed, I can!

Ox: Well, I would be delighted to hear something meaningful about your carnivorous manner, which, on the face of it, has the appearance of a rather violent, ultimately unsustainable, and expensive habit!

Lion: I will be more than delighted to share my thought with you.

Ox: Please do then- and do so without further ado!

Lion: Now you are talking my language Ox!’ Cut to the chase and be done with it,’ right? Isn’t that more appealing than perpetually ‘chewing the cud’?

Ox: Provided that what you say will be as rewarding as you promise!

Lion: It will be, and there is no need to fear Ox, that I will not deliver on my promise. We lions always get our prey!

Lion hunting only makes sense if it's part of a package of interventions

Ox: Well then, why don’t you proceed at once lest anyone accuse your sonorous and deep voice to be more impressive than your actions!

Lion: Excuse me Ox, but If that is not the pot calling the kettle black then the adage has no fitting application whatsoever!

Ox: Pardon me Lion, I will listen, with docility, for your analogy without any further expressions of impatience.

Lion: Well then…..Ox, how many times have you heard it said that philosophers are those who pursue the truth?

Ox: Many times indeed, Lion

Lion: Are not philosophers lovers of wisdom? Is not that what the very word philosopher means? You know ‘φιλοσ σοφοσ’…

Ox: Yes spare me your tedious Greek derivations…everyone knows that Lion! Philosophers are those who are named after the love of wisdom. But do be careful Lion- that does not mean that philosophy is the love of wisdom! quod verbum significat non necesse est quoad verbum imponitur…. after all- let us not name the master science, philosophy, after an act of the will. Nonetheless, I do grant your point Lion.

Greek Philosophers. Philosophers – “lovers of wisdom” Sophists – “workers  of wisdom” – Teachers – Teachers phileo = love sophia = wisdom If sophia =  wisdom. - ppt download

Lion: And is not a pursuit very much a hunt?

Ox: I suppose it is

Lion: We might say, technically, every hunt is a pursuit, but not every pursuit is a hunt

Ox: Yes, I think that would be more precise

Lion: Nonetheless, the two words might aptly be interchanged. For example the fox hunts the hare might just as well be understood as the fox pursues the hare.

The Fox And The Rabbit | Rocky Mountain Shito-Ryu Karate-Do

Ox: I am ready to accept the words as nearly identical in meaning.

Lion: And yet we think of the hunt as particularly belonging to those sorts of mammals which belong to the carnivorous class don’t we?

Ox: I think so. Hunting has the sense of not only pursuing, but also killing that which is hunted. Hunting is a sort of blood sport, no question about it- very carnivorous!

Lion: Precisely! We don’t say an ox, such as yourself, hunts for grass. That would be an odd way of putting it wouldn’t it?

Ox: Yes, I think ‘hunting for grass’ would be an imprecision.

Lion: But philosophers are those who hunt the truth, are they not? They do not just pursue the truth, they catch it as best they can!

Ox: Well, I suppose so.

Lion: And was it not Socrates who famously asserted that finding justice and its definition was something of an epistemological hunt!?

Ox: To be candid Lion, I don’t know what you are talking about?

Lion: Surely you remember the discussion between Socrates and Glaucon as they were seeking the nature of justice in that great dialogue The Republic?

Plato's Republic Explained | History Hit

Ox: Why don’t you remind me?

Lion: I can do no better than to read it to you from the text itself, from my favorite passage where Socrates compares the philosophical search for the definition of justice to a hunt!

“Now then,4 Glaucon, is the time for us like huntsmen5 to surround the covert and keep close watch that justice may not slip through and get away from us and vanish from our sight. It plainly must be somewhere hereabouts. Keep your eyes open then and do your best to descry it. You may see it before I do and point it out to me.”

Isn’t that marvelous? Searching for the truth is very much like hunting! And the truth is not such as to be caught except by those who are actively engaged in the hunt!

Something we animals of the predatory class know very well!

Ox: Well, I suppose the analogy holds to some extent.

Lion: And the philosophical life is not simply about searching as some would have it. There appear to be those who enjoy the pursuit more than the actual final snatching of the prey as properly belongs to the notion of hunting!

Ox: Yes hunting is something beyond the mere search and pursuit.

Lion: Yes- there are those who enjoy arguing about the truth as if they pursue it, but really they appear to revel in the search for its own sake. They enjoy the stimulating excitement of the pursuit, and perhaps even deny the reality of the object which they pretend to pursue. How sad that they never get to enjoy the prize!

Ox: How sad indeed!

Lion: And there are several other minor gustatory likenesses between the enjoyment that hunters, like me, have to true philosophers.

Ox: Do tell.

Hamlet - Wikipedia

Lion: Well don’t we say that real thinkers are those who bite into the “meat of the matter?” Indicating the very substance of some subtle doctrine or other. Carnivores understand what this phrase means. Getting into the meat of the matter means going deep!

And what about this? Do you remember when Hamlet said to Horatio,

They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase

soil our addition; and indeed it takes

from our acchievements, though perform’d at height

the pith and marrow of our attribute.

Isn’t that a beautiful carnivorous metaphor?

Ox: But surely you are only speaking of the marrow here Lion?

Lion: No I was speaking of the pith and marrow ox!

Ox: Lion, I think you may misunderstand. Marrow of course refers to the bone marrow, (which you carnivors love the most!) but pith is, of course, something more to my liking!

Pith is to the plant stem what marrow is to the bone. Both pith and marrow are the savory innermost substances of each kind of thing. But to speak of pith is to appeal to those creatures that enjoy the consumption of plants.

Lion: I had not thought of that.

Ox: Well, I think it is no great calamity to your overall point Lion – as superficial as it is even when fully understood.

We will admit that philosophers do indeed ‘hunt for truth’ and when they find it they ‘bite into the meat,’ and perhaps even so deeply that they bite right to the marrow. Philosophers are to some extent comparable to those of the carnivorous class.

Lion: That is very generous of your Ox. You have granted my point and have even restated it quite well!

Ox: Lion, as much as I hate to admit, sometimes there is something to be learned even from those whose personal habits and way of life are repulsive to us.

Lion: That is very kind of you to say, Ox.

Ox: Let’s not grow overly sentimental, Lion.

The Peaceable Kingdom

About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in philosophy, Shakespeare, Socrates, socratic dialogue and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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