Category Archives: Poetry

Sacrifice and Simulation

Executive summary. An experiment has been performed to detect whether we are living in a simulation. The experiment is to tell Abraham to sacrifice his son. Whatever he does, he breaks a law. Thus there is more to the world than can be understood by natural science.

Beach, sparkling sea, mountains, clouds, sky
Altınova, Ayvalık, Balıkesir, Türkiye
Looking towards Lesbos, Greece
September 20, 2022

C.S. Lewis makes that last point, although not with reference to Abraham. By the Quranic account, Abraham is told in a dream to sacrifice his son. As Mustafa Akyol observes, this leaves to Abraham the decision of whether the dream is from God. It cannot be, since murder is “objectively bad,” and therefore God does not command it.

If the Hebrew version of the story were a Greek tragedy, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his second son could show his regret for banishing his first son and the son’s mother to please his wife.

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Creativity

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In the Platonic dialogues, Socrates frequently mentions τέχνη (technê), which is art in the archaic sense: skill or craft. The concern of this post is how one develops a skill, and what it means to have one in the first place.

Books quoted or mentioned in the text, by Midgley, Weil, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Byrne, Wittgenstein, Arendt, and Alexander

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On Plato’s Republic, 14

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In the tenth and final book of Plato’s Republic (Stephanus 595–621), with the help of Glaucon, Socrates does three things:

  1. Confirm and strengthen the ban on imitative poetry carried out in Book III.
  2. Prove the immortality of the soul.
  3. Tell the Myth of Er about how best to make use of that immortality.


Bernard Picart
Glaucus Turned into a Sea-God, 1731
“Just as those who catch sight of the sea Glaucus would no longer easily see his original nature because some of the old parts of his body have been broken off and the others have been ground down and thoroughly maimed by the waves at the same time as other things have grown on him – shells, seaweed, and rocks – so that he resembles any beast rather than what he was by nature, so, too, we see the soul in such a condition because of countless evils” – Republic 611d

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Figs

This is about figs, because the opening of “The Sixth Elegy” of the Duino Elegies of Rainer Maria Rilke is about them, and I turn out to live among them.

Fig trees growing like weeds on Ayşecik Sokağı
Fulya, Şişli
November 15, 2021

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Nature

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Can Socrates really “find a natural support for justice,” as Allan Bloom says he must? It is strictly impossible, I say in “Bloom, Badiou, Ryle, Shorey.” Inevitably there is more that can be said, and I shall try to get some of it said here.

Sand, sea, mountains, sky
Anatolian sand, Aegean sea, Lesbian mountains
Uranus over all
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 24, 2021

There’s a lot in this post. I drafted the final part first, while I was still at the beach; I’m not there now, and I have to move on. Here in Istanbul, I have added the initial part (and brought pieces of the early draft forward), largely to look at the relations between the thoughts of

  • Leo Strauss, Bloom’s teacher;
  • R. G. Collingwood, my teacher, through his books (he died twenty-two years before my birth), and the subject of some of Strauss’s criticism.

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On Plato’s Republic, 5

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Our fifth scheduled reading in the Republic is Book IV (Stephanus pages 419–45). Socrates speaks

  • with Adeimantus, through the completion of the construction of the city in speech;
  • with Glaucon, after he insists (427d) that Socrates join in the search for justice in the city; they find it and map it back to the individual.

Three dogs sit in the shade of a beach umbrella
Intellect, spirit, and appetite
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 13, 2021

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Badiou, Bloom, Ryle, Shorey

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The discussion having been postponed for our fifth reading in the Republic, I give here some remarks that started out as part of my commentary on Book IV. The remarks concern

  • the translations of the Republic that I have been reading, mainly those of
    • Alain Badiou (b. 1937), translated in turn from the French by Susan Spitzer;
    • Allan Bloom (1930–92);
    • Paul Shorey (1857–1934);
  • the “Interpretive Essay” that accompanies Bloom’s translation;
  • a 1969 review of Bloom’s translation and essay by Gilbert Ryle (1900–76), who embarrasses the profession of philosophy (if it be a profession).

I quote also Christopher Hitchens; A Guide to Plato’s Rupublic, by Daryl H. Rice; Agnes Callard; Martha Nussbaum; and Henry David Thoreau.


Palm trimmed
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 13, 2021

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Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Nun’s Priest and the Nun

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Here is a table of contents for this final reading of our group:

THE PROLOGUE OF THE NONNE PRESTES TALE.

THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

EPILOGUE TO THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.

THE SECONDE NONNES TALE.

The angel seyde, ‘god lyketh thy requeste,
And bothe, with the palm of martirdom,
Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste.’

The palm of martirdom for to receyve,
Seinte Cecile, fulfild of goddes yifte,
The world and eek hir chambre gan she weyve.

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On Plato’s Republic, 4

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Our fourth scheduled reading in the Republic is Book III, Stephanus pages 386–417. Socrates continues to direct the construction of the fantastic city. Plato’s brothers, faithful as dogs, agree to two infamous proposals:

  1. The deportation from the city of any poet “who is able by wisdom to become every sort of thing and to imitate all things” (δυνάμενον ὑπὸ σοφίας παντοδαπὸν γίγνεσθαι καὶ μιμεῖσθαι πάντα χρήματα, 398a).

  2. The teaching of the Noble Lie, that the citizens were formed under ground and distinguished, according to class, with admixture of

    • gold for the rulers,
    • silver for the auxiliaries,
    • iron and bronze for the “farmers and other craftsmen” (414b–5c).

Later in this post, I shall try to analyze the reading into sections; but a serial summary of these seems tedious, and I shall focus on a few remarkable points, such as the ones above.


Two dogs with my copy of
Allan Bloom (translator), The Republic of Plato, 2016 edition,
on the beach at
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 8, 2021

I shall be quoting

  • Homer, whom Socrates loves to hate;
  • Adam Kirsch, from the 2016 introduction to Allan Bloom’s Republic translation, on the danger of summarizing Plato;
  • Pascal on the will of God as the rule for justice;
  • Bruno Bettelheim on fairy tales such as the Three Little Pigs, and perhaps our City in Speech, as opposed to fables;
  • Somerset Maugham on the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper;
  • Plato, in the Symposium, on the identity of comedy and tragedy, and Socrates as a seductive flute-player;
  • Anne Applebaum on “The New Puritans”: the same as the old ones, called Glaucon, Adeimantus, and Socrates?

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On Plato’s Republic, 3

Index to this series

We are reading now Book II of Plato’s Republic, Stephanus pages 357–83, covering:

  1. The conventional arguments in favor of injustice and justice, reviewed by Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus respectively.
  2. The beginning of the construction of the city in speech, wherein the advent of justice is to be discerned; the guardians of the city are to be like dogs and to be given a traditional education, although with none of the traditional stories, since they talk about things like parricide and bad luck.

A book next to a dog lying on the beach

Dog with copy of Alain Badiou, Plato’s Republic:
A Dialogue in Sixteen Chapters, with a Prologue and an Epilogue, 2012
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey, September 2, 2021

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