Friday, March 31, 2017

Ephemeral Equality

If Plato’s city of words is an attempt at representing or defining justice, then what does the city’s inevitable degeneration suggest? Are we to assume that this city’s inevitable degeneration, and the categorical explanation of how the city could degenerate, are simply aspects of the city of words that further our attempted understanding of justice, or could Plato maybe be insinuating that justice itself is only temporarily attainable, and inevitably unstable, instead of a fixated and definable concept.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fear v.s Faith

Socrates is made out to be “young and beautiful”, the epitome of wisdom, and in a way, the protagonist of many dialogues. Therefore it makes sense to value, within the text, what Socrates sets forth as valuable (such as the dialectic “Socratic” method of teaching). Plato’s Socrates’ actions are not driven by any form of selfish hope, or fear for himself. The dialogues are fictitious to an extent; though they may resemble true conversations and depict historical figures, they are Plato’s perceptions of the sunasia he valued, depicted the way wanted them to be perceived. Considering this level of fiction, we can also consider that the metaphor of Socrates’ oracle, despite being a fictitious tale, has predominant meaning to the text regardless of how aware we are of its fiction. From this fictitious tale it is stressed that Socrates does not seek out wisdom to solely benefit himself, but rather simply to find a wiser man than himself, or arguably to influence the youth to think critically, for benefit of themselves and the state. Does it not then make sense to question the idea that doing good out of hope for oneself and one’s character is much more noble or different than acting out of selfish fear, considering both are absent in the dialogues’ embodiment of philosophical value, Socrates?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

I am also unable to comment, despite having updated flash!
My response to "Hoi Polloi":

"Should there be more of a pursuit to understand the truths of other people, even if they are not factually correct?"

I agreement with Professor Silliman, I interpreted Socrates' "sunasia" or dialogues with others to be exactly that, a pursuit to understand their 'truths', rather than an attempt at disapproval/dismissal. When applied to the polloi, I would imagine that he intended to convey the importance of individual thought/questioning, as he does during individual dialogues, rather than the simple acceptance of predominant ideologies (which the ‘polloi’ tend to be guilty of). One can question a general belief by the many even if one has no access to the answers; it’s not the lack of answers that his character disapproves of, rather the lack of questions.

In regards to the Ivory Tower analogy, I feel it could be applied to the way many contemporary students/philosophers view Socrates', however, it's difficult to apply to the platonic character of Socrates, considering his pursuit of knowledge centered largely around proving to the oracle that he was, in fact, not at the top of the “Ivory Tower” of intellect.

I enjoy where you were going with this post; I sometimes fall victim to doing exactly what Plato’s Socrates preaches against: I seem to, so far, generally be accepting Socrates as a god-like character with flawless ideologies. I’m very glad you helped me question this idea with your post!

Samantabhadra v.s. Socrates

Ever since a comparison was made in class between the Greek goddess Athena and the Hindu goddess Kali, I’ve been curious about other Ancient Indian and Greek connections. Not the less relevant (to our class) Greco-Buddhism hellenistic (post Alexander the Great) similarities, but rather the similarities that arise before the Macedonian invasion into Ancient India; before Alexander’s trouncing campaign allowed for the wealth of Ancient Indian knowledge, tradition, and scripture to influence hellenistic values. Before any influential links had been established between Ancient Greece and Ancient India, Plato writes about a dietus Socrates and his teachings that hold surprisingly similar values to Madhyamaka Buddhism.

The most striking comparison I have drawn between Ancient Buddhism the Socratic Dialogues, is that between the depiction of the slightly nomadic-esque Socrates and the vagrant Indian Bodhisattvas. Much like Socrates, Mahayana Bodhisattvas traditionally live off of the generosity, or dāna*, of others and extend, in turn, their knowledge and wisdom. It is easy to see the connection between a Bodhisattva, wandering freely without a home and offering conversation, receiving dāna in return, and Plato’s depiction of Socrates. The preliminary similarity is apparent simply in the depiction of an elderly man spreading wisdom through “sunasia”. The real similarity, however, lies within the similar ideologies that were valued enough by both cultures to provided us with two very similar portrayals of “enlightened”, or highly esteemed individuals. It is incredibly intriguing to me how two cultures, with infinite variables, have somehow managed to share shockingly similar depictions of moral/spiritual leadership. What does this add to the debate over the innateness of human values?

*Dāna - Sanskrit for “generosity”, often referring to the mutual exchange of generosity between teachers and students

Also interesting: Already in the 6th century B.C., the Ancient Indian school of Nalanda and Takshashila adamantly expressed the importance of dialectic teaching, much like the ‘Socratic method’.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Plato's (potential) political parallels

Towards the end of Monday’s class we discussed the comparison between Socrates’ argument for ‘risking the belief in a form of afterlife, and present day humankind risking the economic and environmental efforts to mitigate the effects of global warming. Though I do not intend for this topic to be the focus of today's blog, I haven’t been able to quiet my inner qualms with this comparison. (Disclaimer: I am not a global warming skeptic in the slightest; I do believe, very strongly, in making a conscious effort towards improving our planet’s (and our) health. I simply disagree with the comparison that was made. )
In Phaedo, Socrates explains that there would be no consequences for believing in the existence of the psuche after death, and that therefore one ought to believe, and live accordingly, rather than doubt. Plato’s Socrates suggests that “...those who have purified themselves sufficiently by philosophy live in the future altogether without a body…” (114 c-d) This pascalian-esque argument is quite convincing, considering no damage is done through seeking wisdom and knowledge. Similarly, the comparison to global warming attenuation attempts was likened to the pursuit of knowledge, in that no negative consequences could arise, only positives or nothing. Ergo, believing humankind caused global warming (and living accordingly) is, likewise, a belief that holds no potential inflictions and is certainly worth risking.
Though I certainly understand the initial similarities, these arguments are, upon further evaluation, incomparable. I believe it is a fallacious comparison considering the repercussions, many unintended, that accompany the active pursuit for ‘green energy’, including the matters of contention that have been, and will continue to, peel off from the original issue like capillaries. I am not suggesting that the consequences for attempting to move towards renewable energy would be more severe than those we would face by choosing to do nothing, but rather that, severity aside, there are already consequences resulting from our push towards renewable energies, and the existence of these consequences rebuke the comparison. This energy revolution will continue to create a ripple effect changes in our economy and political system that will also have repercussions (as economic and political advancements usually do). It is because of these consequences that I disagree with the original comparison.
Consequences include the economic and monetary uncertainty of countries that are further along in their reliance on renewable energies than the United States. Germany, for example, has experienced an average 86% increase in renewable surcharge prices since 2006. This renewable surcharge is almost solely responsible for the average power price in an average German household to increase by 6% (from 2006-2016). Which shouldn’t, considerably, be an impactful consequence, yet this price surge is accompanied by many other energy changes and restrictions (including a restriction on using firewood to heat your home as a co2 contribution preventative) that have turned into manipulative talking points for the far right wing parties to gain more popularity amongst German voters. (Ripple effect) The reason for this backlash is because of our uncertainty, and ultimately our fear, in regards to our planet and our unknown exact human contribution to its temperature; that uncertainty and fear feeds many a conservative. (Sound familiar?) There are arguably more prevalent consequences to consider, including the political consequences that will arise once the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund initiative begins collecting $100 billion (BILLION) a year beginning in 2020 from the world’s ‘rich’ countries for developing countries to begin converting their economies to green energy. Christopher Horner, a researcher who obtained primary information regarding this ‘initiative’ from the Obama Administration, articulated the resulting consequences better than I could in his claim:

“It’s not about climate. It never was, all they want is wealth transfers, for the poor in rich countries to pay the rich in poor countries.”

Woah, I told myself I was NOT going to spend my whole blog post on this topic but it seems I have, so I’ll stop myself there. This comparison seemed so confusing in class, and so passively made; Yet, I didn’t want to digress the class from the main point that was being articulated, so here we are with a much too lengthy blog post with too little relevance to Phaedo, and too much relevance to in-class argumentative tangents.  My next post will be much more interesting, and relevant, I promise!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Dissolute Deity

I am perplexed by how piety and impiety are discussed in respect to the Greek Gods, considering the disruptive relationships between the Greek Olympians as portrayed in early Greek mythology. (Which was, likely, what Socrates (Plato) was getting at in Euthyphro?) Most famously, Zeus, and his morally confusing depiction in Greek mythology. Zeus, father of the Gods and ruler of Olympus, shares one thing in common with Euthyphro: the betrayal of his father. In a deliberate act of defiance Zeus overthrew his father, Cronus', rule over Olympus which, to some extent, undermines familial and paternal values. He then spent much of his marital life frolicking around with women other than his wife, Hera, which I'm assuming was morally questionable in Athens' mostly monogamous society. I'm not entirely sure where this leaves Zeus', and therefor the Greek's, familial values... which, in turn, make Euthyphro's dialogue all the more confusing... Though I understand that Zeus, for the most part, was considered as a loving paternal deity who cared wholesomely for the less fortunate, and was an advocate for fairness among mortals, I am confused by the examination of piety and impiety in relation to the God's, considering their behavior in mythology could often be likened to the same faults as mortals (Given these examples of Zeus in mythology)  ...

 In summary, what we (generally speaking) consider as moral and immoral today most likely doesn't parallel with what Athenians regarded as pious or impious. Thus, considering Zeus' behavior in the very mythology that defined religion for Athenians, I could potentially assume that the betrayal of Euthyphro's father wouldn't necessarily have been as damning or shocking in Athens as I was originally under the impression it would have been, based on text/class discussions. So what are we really supposed to make of Euthyphro's decision to indite his father, and Socrates' resulting surprise? What are we supposed to make of the Athenian court and its values that were so often closely tied with the perceived values of the Gods? Interesting. 

I know there must be something I'm missing, either in Greek mythology or Athenian culture or, most probably, both. Ideas? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Apology: one of the Dialogues, or all of the Dialogues in one?

During this read-through of Plato's "Apology", instead of reading and perceiving the work as one of Plato's famous dialogues, as I had done thus far, I read the "Apology" as if it were meant to be a conclusion of sorts to his many dialogues; as if it were an attempt to address all of Plato's dialogues, rather than simply being on of them.

Aiding to this perception are the familiar aspects of  'conclusions' that can be found within the "Apology", such as summerization and interpretation. Firstly, though there is no direct summary of any of the dialogues within the Apology, the work seems to give a general thematic outlay for the other dialogues; those who claim to know (such as Meletus) are shown not to know by one who professes to know nothing for certain.

Secondly, and more importantly, the "Apology" provides something that can be likened to an interpretation or conclusion of sorts by drawing everything back to Socrates' meta-philosophy, or how he is portrayed, by Plato, to be perceiving philosophy. Socrates' methods of investigation and conceptualization of the nature and function of philosophy are laid out within "The Apology" and practiced within the other Dialogues. It is quite clearly displayed throughout Socrates' 'explanatory monologue' that his conception of philosophy is one that doesn't stop at thought, but spills over into action and application in life; philosophy is taught, not only through speech, but also through what one wears, eats, where one moves, etc... This conception repeats itself throughout the dialogues as thought, wisdom, and [what is believed to be] rational understanding, are pulled out of the forefront and are, instead, overshadowed by tests through real life application.
There is, of course, much room for error in this interpretation (considering Socrates doesn't even appear in Laws, but who knows, maybe Plato didn't write that one??? :) ), and I do not mean to suggest that the Apology was meant as a conclusion, since it was far more likely written before the others. However, in reading it as such, I have found the Apology to, not only appropriately foreshadow many of the sunasia (am I using that correctly?) Socrates and is interlocutors will engage in throughout Plato's dialogues, but also provide a blanketing concept of Socrates' meta-philosophy that will be an overlaying theme throughout most of Plato's dialogues. ( I have not yet read them all so I cannot be certain, however, I'm excited to revisit how the Apology ties into other Dialogues further towards the end of the semester!)