By George F. McLean
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Extra resources for Ancient Western Philosophy: The Hellenic Emergence
Or a still more inclusive class, such as the winged genos (Sophist, 220b) or the genos of tame and herd-living creatures (Statesman, 266a). 24 This Borgesian catalogue includes, of course the gene¯ of men and women and those of males and females, and every time Plato’s use of genos is translated into English as ‘sex’, the more general ‘race’ or (better) ‘kind’ would make equally as much sense. 25 As this has signiﬁcant consequences for the interpretation of Republic V it is worth explaining in some detail.
Whereas previously, with their genitals on what was originally the outside, the humans ‘did their begetting and child-bearing not in each other but in the ground, like cicadas’, now Zeus moved their genitals round to the front ‘and brought in reproduction through these in each other’ at least for the halves of the original androgyne, and ‘satisfaction in their intercourse’ (191c) for the rest. The elaboration of this tale into a universal theory of love is the imaginative extension of the condition of the halved creatures to ourselves: we are creatures of lack; in love we long to be complete, to be one with our ‘other half’.
It is open for an objector to argue, at this point, that the translation of ‘genos’ as ‘sex’ is inconsequential here, because the dominant interpretations of Socrates’ argument, interpretations based on this translation, concur with the downgrading of the importance of sex anyway. That is, even with ‘sex’ in the mix the ontologically 28 Plato and Sex indifferent relations between the gene¯ are preserved in the interpretation that sex differences ought not to be privileged in this instance, in assigning occupations.