What means "Consider Phlebas"?

From: hal@finney.org
Date: Wed Oct 25 2000 - 17:24:44 MDT

I've been reading some of the Ian M. Banks "Culture" novels which were
recommended here. His first one is Consider Phlebas, the tale of a war
between the Culture and the Idirans, religious fanatic xenophobe aliens.
A Culture Mind has been stranded, and a group led by an Idiran-supporting
shapeshifter is hoping to capture it and hand it over to its enemies.

All through the book I kept waiting to learn what "Phlebas" means, but it
was never explained, or I missed it.

I found that there is a Socratic dialog called Philebas which is of
some possible relevance. It is a debate about which is best: pleasure
or wisdom. Socrates takes the side of wisdom, and Philebas advocates
pleasure, but Philebas has apparently skipped out (probably because
Socrates always wins) and another guy gets to take the fall.

The Culture is devoted to the idea that pleasure is the greatest good,
in contrast, I think, to most Earthly (and Extropian for that matter)
philosophers who would choose wisdom. The Culture has pretty much given
up on wisdom, at least for humans; that's the machines' job. This is
largely why the main character hates the Culture and wants the Idirans
to win, despite their violence and arrogance; at least they are seeking
to better themselves.

Unfortunately for this explanation, Phlebas and Philebas are not spelled
the same. Anyone know the true meaning of the phrase, Consider Phlebas?


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