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Socratic Dialogues with JanusNode

September 6, 2011

SOCRATES: Shall I propose that we look for examples of art and want of art, according to our notion of them, in the speech of Lysias which you have in your hand, and in my own speech?

THEAETETUS: Undoubtedly.

SOCRATES: He will certainly not think that he has a false opinion?

THEAETETUS: Yes, he says so.

SOCRATES: And this is he who knows how to ask questions?

THEAETETUS: Very true.

SOCRATES: But if he sees any one thing, he sees something that exists. Do you suppose that what is one is ever to be found among non-existing things?

HERMOGENES: What do you mean?

SOCRATES: And do not the poets in the theatres seem to you to be rhetoricians?


SOCRATES: And there is also ‘having believed’?


SOCRATES: And naming is an art, and has artificers?

LACHES: You would be quite correct.

SOCRATES: He must be a fine fellow; tell him to come and sit by me.

LACHES: Yes, certainly.


9/2/11, rule-based generation with JanusNode, from lines selected from various works by Plato (TIMAEUS, LACHES, EUTHYDEMUS, CRATYLUS, ION, PHAEDRUS, EUTHYPHRO, MENO, CRITO, PHAEDO, GORGIAS, PARMENIDES, THEAETETUS, SOPHIST, STATESMAN)

I’ve been meaning to do a dialogue-like generator for a while. This particular generator occurred to me while skimming through Jarry’s “Dr Faustroll”, which has a page and a half of nothing but one-liners from Plato’s dialogues (i.e. things like “it is true”, “it is very true”, “it is obvious”.)

So it was pretty straightforward to:

  • grab all the Plato I could find off of Gutenberg,
  • write some Perl to extract those lines that appropriately began with names all in caps (some texts didn’t add names, or had them in lower-caps),
  • have some Perl extract those lines that were appropriately brief
  • manually skim and extract those lines that would look really out of place in a dialogue with no context. (this took a while and was a weird combination of fascinating and horrifying, kind of like eating too much sugar.)
  • write a script to separate them into appropriate JanusNode BrainFood files – which in this case are just plaintext files with one utterance per line
  • write a set of JanusNode TextDNA rules to generate an infinite dialogue. each rule generates three interactions at a time between Socrates and one of his interlocutors. the rules are weighed to make it more likely to produce dialogues with those who have more responses. i.e. in my corpus there are 631 responses by Theodorus and only 18 from Nicias, so the rules are weighed to make it much more likely that Socrates will have an 3-utterance-pair interaction with Theodorus.
  • test and laugh

So I guess these are sentence-level cut-ups, like nathanielksmith’s.

Anyway, if you want the files, they’re in my zip file of JanusNode resources, the specific files are TextDNA/Socratic Dialogues/Socratic Dialogues.txt and the files beginning with BrainFood/e_plato_*, if you have everything else. (I also recently added the Gil Scott-Heron tribute generator I posted about a couple days ago.)

There’s a serious aspect to this generator, too. Late last year I came across a blog addressing the horrible amounts of sexism, harassment, and rape that contemporary women philosophers suffer (ex: this story describing multiple generations of harassment.) I tried doing n-gram generation on some of their stories, but that just seemed to trivialize them, which is not what I wanted, so I gave up that approach. But I felt that this Socratic Dialogue generator ridiculed the toadying and one-upmanship that is part (though definitely not all) of the problem.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2011 11:27 pm

    That is awesome. I love this one. I love the idea too. How about a dialog between Socrates and Bigee?

  2. September 6, 2011 11:44 pm

    > How about a dialog between Socrates and Bigee?


    SOCRATES: Shall I propose that we look for examples of art and want of art?

    BIGGIE: Wha-??

    SOCRATES: Do you suppose that what is one is ever to be found among non-existing things?

    BIGGIE: Uh-huh.


    BIGGIE: Can’t talk with a gun in your mouth, huh?

  3. nathanielksmith permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:40 am

    This is great. I love the idea. Now I want to make a one-act using dialog cut from Gutenberg and blog/news site comment threads…

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