Getting started with political philosophy

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Fooloso4
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » September 16th, 2018, 9:55 am

Georgeanna:
I don't understand why you say Plato never says anything. It is not my argument that Plato speaks in the dialogues. However, it is he who writes and puts words into the mouths of the players.
Yes, he is the author of the dialogues, but he never speaks in his own name. When we read Plato we only know what his Socrates and Glaucon and others say. He let’s us know that he is present in some of the dialogues, but he never says anything. I would think when he was actually with Socrates he was not always silent. So why is he silent in the dialogues?
There may well not be a treatise on Plato's philosophy written by him. This clearly is not his chosen method - but dialogue is.
It is not just a matter of his personal method or style. It is because philosophy is different than other branches of knowledge. It is not about doctrines or theories but a way of life and suitable only for those who are willing to live this way.

In the Seventh Letter Plato says (Here he speaks in his own name. It is a private letter.):
It is thus, and in this mind, that such a student lives, occupied indeed in whatever occupations he may find himself, but always beyond all else cleaving fast to philosophy and to that mode of daily life which will best make him apt to learn and of retentive mind and able to reason within himself soberly; but the mode of life which is opposite to this he continually abhors. Those, on the other hand, who are in reality not philosophic, but superficially tinged by opinions,—like men whose bodies are sunburnt on the surface —when they see how many studies are required and how great labor,and how the orderly mode of daily life is that which befits the subject, they deem it difficult or impossible for themselves, and thus they become in fact incapable of pursuing it; while some of them persuade themselves that they have been sufficiently instructed in the whole subject and no longer require any further effort. (340d-341a)

… none, I say, of these will ever learn to the utmost possible extent the truth of virtue nor yet of vice. For in learning these objects it is necessary to learn at the same time both what is false and what is true of the whole of Existence,62 and that through the most diligent and prolonged investigation, as I said at the commencement; and it is by means of the examination of each of these objects, comparing one with another—names and definitions, visions and sense-perceptions,—proving them by kindly proofs and employing questionings and answerings that are void of envy—it is by such means, and hardly so, that there bursts out the light of intelligence and reason regarding each object in the mind of him who uses every effort of which mankind is capable.

And this is the reason why every serious man in dealing with really serious subjects carefully avoids writing, lest thereby he may possibly cast them as a prey to the envy and stupidity of the public. In one word, then, our conclusion must be that whenever one sees a man's written compositions—whether they be the laws of a legislator or anything else in any other form,—these are not his most serious works, if so be that the writer himself is serious: rather those works abide in the fairest region he possesses. (344b-c)

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by ThomasHobbes » September 16th, 2018, 11:58 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
September 16th, 2018, 9:55 am
Georgeanna:
I don't understand why you say Plato never says anything. It is not my argument that Plato speaks in the dialogues. However, it is he who writes and puts words into the mouths of the players.
Yes, he is the author of the dialogues, but he never speaks in his own name. When we read Plato we only know what his Socrates and Glaucon and others say. He let’s us know that he is present in some of the dialogues, but he never says anything. I would think when he was actually with Socrates he was not always silent. So why is he silent in the dialogues?
[/quote]

Plato was only a lad, who'd written nothing by the time Socrates was put to death.
This means that Plato is using Socrates as a literary device to have him say stuff that Plato does not have to take direct responsibility for. I do not think it takes much imagination to figure out why, after Socrates was put to death, Plato might not be very keen on using Socrates in this way!!

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by ThomasHobbes » September 16th, 2018, 11:59 am

I think the phrase 'no brainer" might come into play here.

Fooloso4
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » September 16th, 2018, 2:40 pm

TH:
Plato was only a lad, who'd written nothing by the time Socrates was put to death.
Plato was born about 428 or 427 BC. The trial of Socrates was 399 BC.
I think the phrase 'no brainer" might come into play here.

Here is a succinct statement of what is at issue
How one answers this Platonic question [Plato's mask] determines whether one interprets the Platonic corpus as aporetic or dogmatic. Plato mentions his own name only twice in the dialogues and never as the voice of the author or as a speaking character. The problem is underscored by Socrates’ ironic refusal to put forward his own positive doctrines but willingness to convey those of others … (Denis J.-J. Robichaud, "Plato's Persona: Marsilio Ficino, Renaissance Humanism, and Platonic Traditions".)

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by ThomasHobbes » September 17th, 2018, 3:30 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
September 16th, 2018, 2:40 pm
TH:
Plato was only a lad, who'd written nothing by the time Socrates was put to death.
Plato was born about 428 or 427 BC. The trial of Socrates was 399 BC.
I was working from memory. But I think 'only a lad' is accurate.
But the fact is that no one actually knows when Plato started writing, nor when he was born. Earlier estimates put his age at Socrates death at around 24 yo. And there is no doubt that the majority of his work was after Socrates' death. And the reasons I gave for putting his thoughts in the mouth of another stand.
We might also consider a comparison with Xenophon who also used Socrates as a literary device, offering us a completely different view of S, which suggests that the 2 authors are more keen to put their own views rather than paint an accurate picture of S.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » September 17th, 2018, 4:31 am

I find this totally intriguing; as have philosophers down the centuries. Interpretations or speculations surrounding Plato abound; some have read and understood more than others. Some have gone down deep, others not so much.
One thing seems certain is that nobody knows for sure.
Here is one paper I found - discussing Plato's use of characters, with a useful introductory paragraph - by David Sedley, Cambridge

https://www.britac.ac.uk/sites/default/files/85p003.pdf

We could continue down this road comparing, contrasting and considering various interpretations and picking at details.
However, this takes us way off course.
If this is what you wish to pursue, then please start another thread or one will be started for you; and posts moved there.

Reminder: we have now moved on to Lecture 5.
I would like to complete the Introductory Course on Political Philosophy by the end of the century.
Your cooperation would be appreciated.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » September 17th, 2018, 4:50 am

The Open Yale course is perhaps too lengthy for a single thread. Consideration is being given to splitting it after the lectures on the Republic.
See the syllabus here:

https://oyc.yale.edu/political-science/plsc-114

We would then be following Aristotle, Politics.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » September 17th, 2018, 5:39 am

Georgeanna wrote:
September 17th, 2018, 4:50 am
The Open Yale course is perhaps too lengthy for a single thread. Consideration is being given to splitting it after the lectures on the Republic.
See the syllabus here:

https://oyc.yale.edu/political-science/plsc-114

We would then be following Aristotle, Politics.
Or perhaps, any splitting off would best follow the course structure:

1. The polis experience ( Plato, Aristotle) - lectures 1-9
2. The sovereign state ( Machiavelli, Hobbes) - Lectures 10 -14
3. Constitutional government ( Locke ) - Lectures 15 -17
4. Democracy ( Rousseau, Tocqueville ) - Lectures 18 - 23
5. In Defence of Politics ( references Kant, Bernard Crick, E.M. Foster, and Carl Schmitt ) - Lecture 24

Any thoughts welcome.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » September 17th, 2018, 9:13 am

After some thought, I have decided to take an extended break from the forum.
This thread can continue with or without me, depending on level of interest.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Georgeanna » September 17th, 2018, 9:15 am

Georgeanna wrote:
September 17th, 2018, 9:13 am
After some thought, I have decided to take an extended break from the forum.
This thread can continue with or without me, depending on level of interest.
Oh, should have said - thanks to all who participated and gave so generously of their time, knowledge, expertise and energy.
Thank you.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » September 17th, 2018, 10:01 am

Georgeanna:
Here is one paper I found - discussing Plato's use of characters, with a useful introductory paragraph - by David Sedley, Cambridge

https://www.britac.ac.uk/sites/default/files/85p003.pdf
See footnote number two. This is the same issue I cited in the quote from Robichaud - whether the dialogue are to be read as aporetic or dogmatic. Sedley takes the position that we can find Plato’s doctrines in the dialogues, but notes that there is an opposing way of reading the dialogues.
We could continue down this road comparing, contrasting and considering various interpretations and picking at details.
However, this takes us way off course.
If this is what you wish to pursue, then please start another thread or one will be started for you; and posts moved there.
I have not wish to continue down this road, but if one is interested there is an extensive literature on it. Anyone who thinks is it not simply a “no brainer” can read about it and think about it and draw their own conclusions after doing the work.

What is at issue is how we are to read Plato. Knowing Smith’s background I have no doubt which side he is on.
After some thought, I have decided to take an extended break from the forum.
Sorry to hear that.
This thread can continue with or without me, depending on level of interest.
My interest is in reading Plato and discussing Smith’s excellent lectures, but with you gone there seems to be no one left who is actually interested in reading Plato. So unless someone who has been sitting on the sidelines posts something substantive, this may be my last post on this thread.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Burning ghost » September 17th, 2018, 10:39 am

Look forward to your return Georgeanna. Hopefully when you find time to return they’ll be some interesting things to read here.
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Burning ghost » September 19th, 2018, 12:58 am

Fool -

I’d like to continue with this a little. I’m going to reread it anyway so may as well add something.

The difficultly I find with The Republic is the vague translations used for terms not present in modern English. Give that in the first 2 parts of book the main topic to hand is “justice” and “injustice” I find it hard to figure out where and when the term is bekng used differently.

The argument starts off proper with dispute over what is “beneficial” and the position put forward that “injustice” is of the most benefit ... from the get this is already refuted in how they frame the meaning of “justice” as being that which brings about the “good”. The question of stealing some fruit from a filthy rich no good low life to feed a dying child and save their life cannot be both “just” and “unjust” by the definition laid out in parts 1 & 2.

All seems to be set out is to say that if an “unjust” act gives rise to “justice” then it is not an “unjust” act.

If that isn’t worth mentioning then I’ve moved onto the “Education” of part 3 now. From the get go the same kind of problem arises with the misunderstanding of what “education” means here. Essentially what we’re talking about are the “Muses” of which the same problem of “advantage” and “good” arise without the reader fully understanding the context of the mythos involved in how the “truth” and “lies” of the gods are to be told and what should be shielded from children - the gods wrongly being represented as dispensing “good and evil” in Plato’s eyes. Obviously there is a parallel here many have talked about in term of how Christianity took up the Greek mythos and build fro Plato’s ideas, or ideas like his, in part (although the Old Testament “god” does portray a more tempestuous nature compared to the New Testament renditions.)

Within this we can see well enough Plato’s attempts to frame ideal scenarios to build from.
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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by ThomasHobbes » September 19th, 2018, 4:07 am

Burning ghost wrote:
September 19th, 2018, 12:58 am
Fool -
. Obviously there is a parallel here many have talked about in term of how Christianity took up the Greek mythos and build fro Plato’s ideas, or ideas like his, in part (although the Old Testament “god” does portray a more tempestuous nature compared to the New Testament renditions.)

Within this we can see well enough Plato’s attempts to frame ideal scenarios to build from.
It's more like Greeks invented Christianity, since Greek thinking was the dominant ideology and Saul the "Separated" (Paul) who invented "Christianity" did so in Greek words with Greek concepts. Being a "Pharasee" he was probably looking around for a set of events to re-think religion when he discovered the Jesus story - and the rest is history.

However the Tempestuousness of the God figure of the Hebrews was not unfamiliar with other Gods at the time. I think Paul had a hard job offering a weak minded God to the congregation.

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Re: Getting started with political philosophy

Post by Fooloso4 » September 19th, 2018, 9:55 am

BG:
The difficultly I find with The Republic is the vague translations used for terms not present in modern English. Give that in the first 2 parts of book the main topic to hand is “justice” and “injustice” I find it hard to figure out where and when the term is bekng used differently.
The Bloom translation attempts to be literal and consistent in the use of terms. I linked to a PDF in an earlier post.
The argument starts off proper with dispute over what is “beneficial” and the position put forward that “injustice” is of the most benefit ... from the get this is already refuted in how they frame the meaning of “justice” as being that which brings about the “good”.
The argument starts off here:
"But as to this very thing, justice, shall we so simply assert that it is the truth and giving back what a man has taken from another, or is to do these very things sometimes just and sometimes unjust? Take this case as an example of what I mean: everyone would surely say that if a man takes weapons from a friend when the latter is of sound mind, and the friend demands them back when he is mad, one shouldn't give back such things, and the man who gave them back would not be just, and moreover, one should not be willing to tell someone in this state the whole truth.

"What you say is right," he said.

"Then this isn't the definition of justice, speaking the truth and giving back what one takes."

"It most certainly is, Socrates," interrupted Polemarchus, "at least if Simonides should be believed at all."

"Well, then, " said Cephalus, "I hand down the argument to you, for it's already time for me to look after the sacrifices. (331c-d)
The argument goes on to consider several different formulations. Each of them raises other questions and problems, but each may touch on something that is not simply rejected.
All seems to be set out is to say that if an “unjust” act gives rise to “justice” then it is not an “unjust” act.
That is not a conclusion that Socrates would support.
From the get go the same kind of problem arises with the misunderstanding of what “education” means here. Essentially what we’re talking about are the “Muses” of which the same problem of “advantage” and “good” arise without the reader fully understanding the context of the mythos involved in how the “truth” and “lies” of the gods are to be told and what should be shielded from children - the gods wrongly being represented as dispensing “good and evil” in Plato’s eyes.
The discussion at the end of book II is about the gods and lies. It raises the question of the usefulness of lies, a topic that will be taken up again with the "noble lie".
Obviously there is a parallel here many have talked about in term of how Christianity took up the Greek mythos and build fro Plato’s ideas, or ideas like his, in part (although the Old Testament “god” does portray a more tempestuous nature compared to the New Testament renditions.)

Obviously the Republic says nothing about Christianity. Nietzsche said that Christianity is Platonism for the people (or masses), but what this means is something better left until after both the Republic and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil have been read. It also requires understanding the difference between Plato and Platonism. An interesting topic but the topic at hand is the Republic itself, not its historical influence.

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