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The Republic by Plato
Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5 – completed
Owed Submissions: (unaccounted for) @WhatSheepMayJump
Parked in Gulag but hoping he comes back: @Osiris
Book 7 Study period: 30.03 - 05.04.20. For the seventh session the following rules apply: If you have as of this post not submitted your notes for book 7, you are expected to post your notes for both book 6 & 7 by Friday 03.04. If you have already submitted your notes for Book 6, you are expected to post your notes for book 7 by Friday 03.04.
If you have already submitted your notes for book 6 and for any reason are unable to hold the Friday deadline for book 7, please post this here in the reading group. You will then be expected to submit your notes for book 7 with your notes for book 8 by 10.04.
As tradition allows, we will hold the Weekend as our big discussion dates. A purge will follow. Let me know if you have any questions!
We are looking for good PDF versions of Protagoras, Gorgias and Parmenides as well as supplementary material (Prof. Sugrue and Prof. Grimes cover us but the more the merrier). PDF and supplementary material of other dialogues or of Aristotle´s books on ethics, politics e.t.c will also be appreciated.
The Republic by Plato
Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5 - completed
Owed Submissions: (unaccounted for) @WhatSheepMayJump
Parked in Gulag but hoping he comes back: @Osiris
@Bukharin: Your writing style has become clearer in content. The descriptions are fleshed out pretty good and you brought us the example of Marcus Aurelius as an example of philosopher king. I recommend you to hold onto Marcus Aurelius for book 8 where Socrates will introduce different systems of government and then either contrast the two persons or place Marcus Aurelius in one of the systems Socrates describes. Whatever you like. Let me know if you like this idea.
@AntsKingII: Your English got better. You also got the general gist of book 6. Thanx for your input.
@bloodexorcist: I did not know about Miyamoto Musashi´s twofold gaze, so thank you for sharing. Socrates deals with the first part of your question in coming books. The second part, I would say that Socrates is playing into the saviour myth and trying to embody the saviour himself at the same time. Sugrue talks about it when he covers the apology which is a dialogue we will do later.
@WanaxAgamemnon: Your syllogism was nice to read. With regards to isolation, I think there’s a dialectic going on between Socrates who was always willing to engage in dialogue with everyone and Heraclitus who preferred solitude.
@Smores: Pretty useful content. I liked the way you described being and becoming as two opposing forces. Thank you for your insight. What do you think about Pierre Grimes?
@TopSperg: Very good. Statistics are the big thing nowadays and I liked your platonic take on them “They are for the average man and we are not trying to be average here!”. Keep up the good work.
@deboliusmaximus: Good. I assume you are saving your writing energy for the parable of the cave.
@dinkelpuss: Four people touched on the divided line. You confronted it explicitly and gave an honest simple explanation anyone can understand. Good stuff.
@AustrianArtSchoolDropout: I applaud you for catching up. Always a pleasure to read you.
In 4 weeks from now, we will be finished with the republic and starting what me and @Bukharin call “the second unit”. This, as discussed before, will be three dialogues: Protagoras, Gorgias, Parmenides. We will follow them up with a few more important Platonic dialogues and then start with Aristotle.
This will give outsiders a brief window to join us. Me and @Bukharin expect a massive purging pyre by the end of Protagoras. I am counting on your support to separate future allies from the chuff. Thank you.
Purge coming up...Read More
Knowledge proceeds from hypothesis about superficial characteristics of objects, to hypothesis of the objects themselves, to materially verifiable overarching principles and finally to the true underlying principles rooted in pure reason, free from axioms and contained within itself, as shown in the allegory of the cave. This allegory also shows how people at lower levels are prone to manipulation. I will add another level below: the passive human, uninterested even in the shadows and concerned with base needs. There is also the nihilist, who actively avoids emerging from the cave, while mastering everything within.
Socrates prescribes training for all citizens, starting with gymnastics from the age of 10, followed by music and basic science. At the age of 20, people showing desired natures and ability will be introduced to a rigorous study of philosophy. Knowledge of mathematics and geometry, pursued as sciences unto themselves, and not through their applications, will be conducive to reason and dialectics. Modern physics and mathematics lays its foundations on its utility and predictive power more than truth and intellectual rigor, and as practically given up the search for "first principles", leading to the non-distinction between a real, graphed and representative objects, Newtonian calculus, imaginary numbers, non-converging infinite sequences and so on. However, 3D geometry and astronomy have been developed to resemble a science in the Socratic sense. At the age of 30, the proper people will be introduced to dialectical methods and reasoning, which are conducive to finding the truth and beauty in things. And finally at the age of 50, they will be placed as rulers, who will guide the newer generation through the same path.
During all this, guardians will perform military, legislative, administrative, menial and common duties. As the old saying goes: your head may float among the clouds, as long as your feet are planted on the ground. Over enthusiasm in these tasks could indicate and intention for personal profit or incompetence.
An important psychological aspect of both individuals and masses, is how they lash-out or sink-back against perceived injustice - sometimes even minor ones, usually conducting themselves as the opposite of the source, and seek relationships and knowledge where there is none. Hence, forceful education will damage the individual.
It could be argued that intellectuals think their methodology is invaluable, as this is their natural bent and see everything in those terms. I think there are hundreds of ways to reach the same destination, except they haven't been recorded in history - as record making is an intellectual activity, or pursued to their ends as often.Read More
LeashedDoggie: “Priviet Gospadin Glo Glogovich Glostein”
Bukharin: “We have a present for you”
The two peaked through the small barred window of a high security isolation cell.
@Gaylubeoil a massive hank of muscle and brain remained motionless, uninterested.
The cell door opened for only an instant and then it was closed.
“Knock yourself out!”
Gaylubeoil turned to see he was now sharing cells with an older dude with a hippy white beard and unkempt hair. He looked like Charles Bukowski and smelled like Charles Bukowski if Charles Bukowski never used dental floss.
Two pairs of boxing gloves were on the floor as well as a mint chess board still in the box.
“Hi, hyack! I’m Mentorpheus hyack! Wanna chessbox?”
“A spectre is haunting the manosphere, the spectre of Gaylubeoil. All the powers of old and incompetent boomers and fatsos have entered into alliance to exorcise this spectre.”
@Gaylubeoil keeps his posting rights. We hope to get more of his insight on Plato at a later date.Read More
Book VI (+Book V/VII)
The Rulership of the Philosopher and its Legitimacy
This book overlaps with book 5. The conversation builds on Socrates having explained that the ideal state depends on its philosopher-guardian-rulers and having explained ‘real philosophy’.
Knowledge of the world of forms is assumed as explained in other Socratic/Platonic dialogues. A philosopher should be able to understand the simple, and timeless being that never changes. The non-philosophers deal with individual changeable things. For the commoner knowledge is inaccessible therefore he is confused. The philosopher on the other hand can rule without being confused always having the perfect state in mind and align his actions with it. Therefore only a philosopher can be the head of the ideal state.
However, Socrates then deals with the question if a philosopher has enough political power to rule. A philosopher, as stated earlier, is a truth-hunter. That means a philosopher has the ruler-characteristics: love of truth, prudence, generosity, fearlessness, modesty, affability, justice and being able to stand one’s ground. Being a philosopher requires a high IQ. They don’t tend to forget stuff this makes them trustworthy. Adeimantus points out that contemporary philosophers are actually either frauds or inefficient. Socrates blames this on both the crowd being incapable of thought, and the rulers’ stupidity. In addition the sophists claim philosophy as theirs and give it a bad name. Like in other dialogues Socrates explains why sophists are charlatans. In the end Socrates does believe change is possible.
The unique special position of the philosophers for Socrates is based on the fact that they focus their thoughts on the divine and well-ordered and admire and imitate it, whereby they themselves assume this quality, as far as this is possible for a human being, and that rulers can change.
The Idea of the good as guideline
Socrates addresses the training for rulers. The members of the guardian class who possess the four virtues are eligible for rulership. Thereafter the guardians must still elevate themselves intelligence wise before attaining power. What they must learn is the idea of good itself. From that idea most other things relevant for leadership can be derived. Approaching the idea of the good however is the greatest of all challenges. The commoners, who also in their hearts strife for the good, often misinterpret it and therefore end up with an unsatisfactory result. One must first understand general ‘good’ in order to understand individual ‘good’.
Since the idea of the good is transcendent, that is, beyond the normal range of experience and understanding. Socrates does not give a direct description. Instead, he chooses to approach parables that illustrate what is meant and illuminate the relationship between the seeker of truth and the idea of good. First he tells the parable of the sun, then the parable of lines and finally the parable of caves.Read More
In the previous book Socrates says that a disciplined upbringing is most essential. It is more important than any law whatsoever. To realise the best discipline, is to have women and children as property of the community rather than the individual. Most find this idea abhorrent, even up till the present day this idea finds no fertile ground(*). Polemarchos and Adeimantus demand an explanation as to how Socrates envisions this idea in reality.
Socrates elaborates. Socrates first mentions his idea of sex being prohibited, except for certain periods of the year: some kind of sex festivals. At the sex festival both men and women preferably procreate with more than one partner. This system ensures that no man can say with certainty that he is the father of a child. As extension Socrates invents a vague system to prevent incest. A group that is allowed to procreate, must be seen holistically as the parents of the children they produce. Those children in turn must see each other as brother and sisters. This will create ‘one big family’ and therefore they all share the same interest which will enable the perfect state.
In order to explain whether; a society can live like that, Socrates addresses the upbringing of guardian children. These children should be taken to war and view the battlefield from a safe distance. The cowards will be removed from the guardian class. Socrates proposes ius ad bellum/ius in bello (law of war). The law calls for moderation in the treatment of the defeated party, be they Greek. Otherwise vae victis.
The rulers of the society will be the guardians, in order for everything to work they must be philosophers. A philosopher is one that hungers for knowledge like the plebs hunger for degenerate stuff. The philosopher is hunting the truth, not just the appearance of truth/beauty. In practice, rulers of today (meaning Socrates’ today) should pursue philosophy seriously or real philosopher take up power. Socrates defines what is meant as a middle ground between knowledge and ignorance. The knowledge of the philosopher relates to being, to reality, while the non-philosopher is an opinion who turns his attention to a semi-dark intermediate area between what is and what is not.
(I might miss some a little part of book 5 but that’ll be in my review of book 6. The continental (or Dutch/German) division of the book does not correspond well with the Anglo-way).
Thoughts: in my text I put an (*) because I make a claim there. I believe there is an exception tot his claim: the Israeli Kibbutz. What I understand is that Israel was founded as Marxist nation (first recognised by CCCP for example), in which people lived in communal groups called the Kibbutz. Children were taken from their parents (so marriage between a man and a woman was not abolished, as Socrates suggests) and were raised equally. I just had a quick scan over the wiki-page and gender equality was also a major part of this upbringing. In the end the ‘child rearing’ appeared bad for the children and was abolished in the 1970s. My question, was this semi-Socratic system, good for the state? The wiki-page mentions a research done on people who were raised like this. They were all very successful in business, academia and entertainment. But we are talking about a group that won over 30% of the noble prices. So might this be a spurious regression? Also Israel is a state, politics aside, which is very successful (against the odds) since the beginning, so did the Socratic system really contribute?Read More
Adeimantus asks Socrates whether rulers can be happy without having any private property or gaining any monetary stimulus. Socrates states that is about the total happiness in society and not the happiness of the (individuals in) the ruling class.
The men thereafter focus on the lifestyle of the protector class. Poverty is a non-existent problem for money does not exist in Socrates’ society. Adeimantus says there are practical problems with not having money like: not being able to have an alliance with another (city)state. Socrates believes his society will have the best rulers and soldiers. For the aforementioned reason and for the reason the ally is allowed to have all the spoils of war, having an alliance with Socrates’ state is more attractive, than having an alliance with a rich state.
The protector class have to manage their own education and have to share everything including their women and children. If education is done right then, laws would be unnecessary. The judgement of a decent ruler is enough. A state like this will resemble the four virtues; wisdom, courage, moderate and justice.
Socrates elaborates the four virtues. Wisdom is for the rulers of the state. Courage is found among the soldiers. Justice and being moderate is found in all layers of society. Socrates claims he hereby defined justice: justice is subjective and bound to an individual.
Socrates says there is a difference between collective and individual justice. If one wants to look at individual justice one needs to take a look at the soul. The soul is divided in three categories: the rational/knowing-part, the spirited part and a longing/wanting-part. The first seeks truth, the second seeks honour and the third is for lust. Each part corresponds to a certain class, and the part that is the strongest for an individual, that is the part that determines to which class one belongs to.
Socrates concludes that he identified justice for both the collective and the individual. Socrates says that if all parts of the soul function correctly that one has a good sense of justice. A good soul brings about a good man health etc. Therefore it is good to be just, it means you have a good soul and then your health will follow.
Thought: the Socratic definition of justice, being an interwoven matter between individual and collective, is astonishingly relevant today. The Netherlands is a country which subscribes to this definition. The Dutch law system is a modernisation of the Code Napoléon. The ‘unlawful deed’ introduced by the Code is explained as ‘unrighteous deed’ in the Netherlands. If I for example spy on you and it is not prohibited by law (not everything can be codified), via this convention people can still go to court. The judge in turn will look at what is right in a society (collective justice) and what is appropriate in the individual case (individual justice).Read More
If philosophers are to rule the state, then their characteristics and their surroundings must be outlined. Socrates posits that a true philosopher is one that knows and seeks out true reality, dismisses opinion and does not direct any attention towards “petty” issues. The search must grasp divine and human qualities as whole. Much like an athlete needs the best facilities, diet and training regimes, a philosopher too needs an environment which promotes the consumption of knowledge. This requires an ‘intellectual vacuum’, which deflects any external physical intrusion from imposing its will upon the philosopher, for externalities will contaminate the ‘soil’ which philosophic nature is to be nurtured in, and as such, adverse effects will surface.
Ideally, philosophers would exit this ‘vacuum’, apply their ideas to the state and the masses submit to the ‘truth’. Unfortunately the nature of the common man is not so simple (or perhaps too simple). Socrates argues that philosophers have no use in the current society, as their position conflicts with that of the masses. Much like mass media today, certain intellectuals/thinkers will have their ideas torn apart for they (the ideas) may cause the common folk to start asking questions, and asking questions is a dangerous thought. And so, conventional views and ideas will be the order of the day, and the Sophist will feed to the curs what they want, and the state of stale affairs endures. This is where , I think, the metaphor of the captain and ship is used to clarify Socrates’ position, which @LeashedDoggie describes in his post.
This is the point where many problems arise regarding Socrates’ idealistic notion of the philosopher ruler. The Ruler, no matter how knowledgeable he may be, will, according to Socrates, at some point become corrupted with power, and will be blinded from the truth. And this brings up the question, do the masses even care about quest for true reality ? It is a dilemma in this instance, for ignorance of the masses for the pursuit of truth is an indirect relinquishment of one’s duty as a ruler, even if the truth may be that which is most beneficial to all. As such, philosophers (true philosophers) will embrace these “evil influences” (power and pleasures), and the search for knowledge will be continued by second-rate philosophers. Thus the whole system of the philosopher ruler and the search for true reality, it seems, is destined for failure upon this structure.
The end of this book introduces the Divided Line simile - a division of the mind in the intelligible realm. It is not a classification of how we perceive objects, rather, how the various aspects of the mind view objects (forms). Essentially, it is used to illustrate degrees of truth of knowledge, for when the Sun illuminates an object we see it in its completeness, yet we know very little about something which is confined to shadows or images, or its “superficial appearance”.Read More
Book 6: Then nature of the philosopher is to be an eternal seeker of knowledge, preferring divine pleasure over human pleasures. They are also claimed to be best-suited to rule over the state. Socrates is stuck with the question as to why philosophers appear as useless outcasts to society if they have the ideal nature to rule. Socrates compares the philosopher-king to the captain of a ship. The ideal captain will assuredly be the best person to navigate and command the ship yet the sailors might want to be steering the ship themselves even though they are incapable. A mutiny arrises and the captain is done away with while the ship delves into anarchy. The fate of the philosopher-king is the same when the subjects act as mutinous sailors.
In the inferior state, the philosopher will have no place. Those of this particular nature are content to isolate themselves when seeing the corruption of mankind and strive for good themselves and being content with this knowing he cannot fix the state. Others of the philosophical nature are turned away at every instance throughout their lives and pushed into the more common areas of society. The environment pushes them away from their better nature. With this arises the Jordon Petersons of the world, holding 21conventions and imitating philosophers to the masses who cannot discern for themselves. The world gains a natural distaste for philosophy when weak men who failed in other professions parade themselves as knowledgeable when in fact they can’t even comprehend classical literature. We are still left today with Sophists taking up a majority of the intellectual sphere regurgitating popular opinion back to the masses while the differentiated thinkers remain on the fringe of modern society.Read More