Category Archives: Philosophy

On Plato’s Republic, 8

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Plato is somehow quite challenging in the present reading, which is the first part (Stephanus 484–502d) of Book VI of the Republic. Socrates tries to work out the third wave from the previous reading. Significant features are several analogies or figures:

  • city as ship whose sailors neither know how to sail nor want to know;
  • people and sophist as beast and zoologist or zookeeper;
  • ruler as painter who compares a canvas with what the mind’s eye sees;
  • philosopher as seed that needs good soil, lest it become a noxious weed.

I concurrently discuss the Republic readings in a group formed through the Catherine Project, which now has the website just linked to. The same was true for Pascal in the winter and Chaucer in the summer.

Bookshelves in morning sun
Ayşecik Sokağı, Fulya, Şişli, İstanbul, October 14, 2021.
The order of the books on the shelves of the cases being like that of words on the lines of pages of an individual book, the ordering is chronological, by birth date of author, editor, or personal subject. The youngest author for now is Sally Rooney, and Zena Hitz is on the same shelf. Plato is on the opposite wall.

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On Plato’s Republic, 7

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We shall define the philosophers, the lovers of knowledge or wisdom, as

τοὺς αὐτὸ ἄρα ἕκαστον τὸ ὂν ἀσπαζομένους,

those-who itself therefore each that-which is delight-in.

This is at Stephanus 480a, at the end of our seventh reading in Plato’s Republic. The reading constitutes, of Book V, the latter part, beginning at 472a.

The meaning of Socrates’s definition of the philosopher is not obvious. Here are five translations; take your pick.

Jowett (3rd edition 1892):
“those who love the truth in each thing.”
Shorey (revised edition 1937):
“those who in each and every kind welcome the true being.”
Cornford (1941):
“those whose affections are set, in every case, on the reality.”
Bloom (2nd edition 1991):
“those who delight in each thing that is itself.”
Waterfield (1993):
“those who are devoted to everything that is real.”

The point is not to find a formula in English, but to understand the meaning that Socrates happens to express in Greek. Socrates offers the definition of the philosopher in the form of a question. Are these the folks that should be called philosophers?

Glaucon agrees that they are, and that they are to be distinguished from the lovers of opinion, or perhaps of reputation. These are the “philodoxers” or “doxophilists,” who may love beautiful sights and sounds,

αὐτὸ δὲ τὸ καλὸν οὐδ᾽ ἀνέχεσθαι ὥς τι ὄν,

itself but the beautiful not bear as something that-is.

This is actually a bit less obscure than the account of the philosopher; here is what the same translators as above do with it.

Jowett
“but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.”
Shorey
“but they could not endure the notion of the reality of the beautiful itself.”
Cornford
“but would not hear of beauty itself being a real thing.”
Bloom
“but can’t even endure the fact that the fair itself is something?”
Waterfield
“but can’t abide the idea that there is such a thing as beauty itself.”

We shall get here after the question of Socrates at 476c, here just with Bloom’s translation:

σκόπει δέ. τὸ ὀνειρώττειν ἆρα οὐ τόδε ἐστίν, ἐάντε ἐν ὕπνῳ τις ἐάντ᾽ ἐγρηγορὼς τὸ ὅμοιόν τῳ μὴ ὅμοιον ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸ ἡγῆται εἶναι ᾧ ἔοικεν;

Consider it. Doesn’t dreaming, whether one is asleep or awake, consist in believing a likeness of something to be not a likeness, but rather the thing itself to which it is like?

We shall get here because, in the former part of Book V, Socrates told of

  • the service of women with men among the guardians and
  • their being mated with men, and kept ignorant of their children, in a eugenics program run by the rulers.

These two proposals, or laws, were likened to waves, and now we are seeing the third wave, which is the coincidence of political power and philosophy in the city. This needs an explanation of what the philosopher is anyway.

Five dogs at the edge of the sea
Aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 20, 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, 6

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Book V of Plato’s Republic features three of what Socrates calls waves or breakers:

  1. That women serve alongside men as guardians.
  2. That women be bred with men like animals and not know their children.
  3. That philosophers rule as kings, or kings become philosophers.

Such outlandish injunctions will have Socrates swept away, though he does not say by whom or what.

Our sixth scheduled reading covers the first two of the three waves, in Stephanus pages 449a–71e. Socrates is induced to spell out details adumbrated in the last reading, Book IV, concerning the sharing of women and children among the guardians.


Wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 20, 2021

Contents

  • Midwifery. A wave in Greek is also a fetus, and Socrates uses related words in the Theaetetus to discuss his calling as a midwife.
  • Contradictions. Socrates says in the Theaetetus that only the infertile can be midwives, who in turn do the best matchmaking, although now in the Republic he will now effectively assign matchmaking to Glaucon. This is one of several examples of Socratic weaselliness.
  • Etymology of ΚΥΜΑ. “Cyma,” “cyme,” “church,” “cave,” “accumulate,” and enceinte all happen to be cognate.
  • Where We Are. As we begin the current reading, Socrates gets sidetracked from discussing the kinds of badness in the city and the soul.
  • A New Start (449a–51b). Polemarchus et al. make Socrates talk about sex instead.
  • Freedom and Truth. An excursus on Socrates and Malcolm X, journalism and written words.
  • First Wave (451b–7c)
  • Second Wave (457c–71e)

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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.


Intellect, spirit, and appetite
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 13, 2021

Before proposing a general summary, I shall note the following highlights of the reading. At the end I make some further remarks on one of these, the Law of Contradiction.

Highlights

  1. Common [they are,] the things of friends, κοινὰ τὰ [τῶν] φίλων (424a). Aristotle refers to this in Book II, Chapter 1 of the Politics, 1260b1a:

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Politics

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This is mostly about avoiding things. An early theme of Plato’s Republic is avoiding the deprivations of solitary life through politics. Some of us would rather just avoid politics. Such persons include Henry David Thoreau, Gilbert Ryle, and the inventor of the h-index (he is a physicist called Jorge E. Hirsch, but I know nothing else about him). I mentioned these persons in my last Plato post, “Badiou, Bloom, Ryle, Shorey.” I have some more to say about them here. In “Civil Disobedience” (1848) for example, Thoreau writes, “it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel”; but measures like the h-index are used to hide the human factor in the equations used to judge us.

Regarding Thoreau, I shall be looking in addition at Thoreau’s essays “Walking” and “Slavery in Massachusetts.” Other sources for this post will include

  • R. G. Collingwood, Speculum Mentis and An Autobiography;
  • 101 Zen Stories;
  • Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour;
  • Robert Wright, “Ending war via algorithm”;
  • Danielle Carr, “The Politics of Viruses”;
  • Patricia Fara, “It leads to everything.”


All photos are from Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 21–3, 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, Daryl H. Rice, Agnes Callard, Martha Nussbaum, and Henry David Thoreau.


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

Here’s a table of contents:

Shorey

In the preface of his own translation, Bloom says Shorey’s is one of the two best English translations. The other is A. D. Lindsay’s, but I know nothing about him or it.

Being part of the Loeb Classical Library, Shorey’s translation is

  • convenient for

    • including the Greek, so that one can see that Shorey makes “the principle of doing one’s own business” (433b) from τὸ τὰ αὑτοῦ πράττειν (Bloom has “the practice of minding one’s own business”);
    • using footnotes rather than endnotes;
  • inconvenient for having

    • two volumes;
    • small thin pages, so that leafing through to find the passage you want is hard.


Palm bearded
Profesörler Sitesi, Altınova, Balıkesir, Turkey
September 12, 2021

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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

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We are reading now Book II of the Republic.

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

Our reading is Stephanus pages 357–83, covering

  • the conventional arguments in favor of injustice and justice, reviewed by Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus respectively;
  • 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.

I am exercised by how Adeimantus in the first part, and Socrates in the second, criticize certain teachings in the Iliad, without considering how those teachings are given by one character to another, in contexts that we ought to use in judging them.

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On Plato’s Republic, 2

Constituting the latter part of Book I, the second of the Republic readings features the only sustained contribution of Thrasymachus, who argues that, if it can be pursued perfectly, injustice is superior to justice.

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