Fooloso4 wrote: ↑
August 27th, 2018, 2:04 pm
He wants to replace that [certain notions of citizen loyalty and patriotism, created, shaped by the poetic tradition going back to Homer] with a new kind of, I want to call it rational citizenship, philosophical citizenship. He wants to replace that with a new kind of, I want to call it rational citizenship, philosophical citizenship. A view of citizenship that, again, relies on one’s own powers of independent reason and judgment and argument and in the course of defending this point of view … (3.2)
While I think this is true to some extent, it is not so straight forward. Certainly Plato values reason, judgment, and argument, but to the extent that they are used, they are not used in a way that is independent of time and place, that is, independent of historical and cultural context.
In addition, most people are not as capable of independent thought as they might like to believe. They are led by public opinion. Plato did not intend to do away with public opinion but rather to shape it at a fundamental level. And in part this means shaping the opinions of the opinion makers.
In chapter 4 in discussing the Crito Smith adds that the laws as fundamental to the tradition. So, to whatever extent a new citizen is to replace the old, it is not a matter of starting over from scratch or a complete disregard for the tradition. He suggests that there is a tension here, but we should not think of it in terms a tension that can or should be resolved one way or the other, in favor of the city and laws or the individual.
Do we believe him in this respect, I mean an important question, do we believe him again, is he being sincere in this or is he using this as it were a kind of rhetoric with which to envelope himself? What is this peculiar kind of piety that he claims to practice? (3.3)
I think the answer is both, and it relates back to the question of tradition. He is being sincere, but is enveloping himself with the language of gods and piety, that is, the language of the tradition. His “peculiar kind of piety” is not piety to the gods but to justice. Justice, as he indicates in the Euthyphro, cannot be in the hands of the gods because the gods do not act justly. While I think it evident that he did not believe in the Olympian gods, the question of whether he believed in a God or gods is complicated by the fact that we do not know what he might have meant when using terms such as ‘God’ and ‘divine’. It seems likely to me that he was a skeptic. Consistent with his knowing that he does not know, the existence of gods is not a question he could answer. He would, however, reject any claims about the gods that entail injustice to men. On the other hand, like the poets, he makes good use of divinity as a mode of persuasion. But it should be emphasized, unlike the sophists, he did not do this simply to win arguments, but rather to promote justice and the good of others.
… in a sense, one could say maybe this is not Plato’s last word, I mean why does Socrates choose to stay and drink the hemlock?
… are the reasons Socrates gives Crito for refusing to escape, the reasons he puts in the mouth of the laws of the city of Athens, are those Socrates’s true reasons?
Smith hints that the final word might be found in Plato’s Laws.
The Laws begins:
Athenian Stranger: Tell me, Strangers, is a God or some man supposed to be the author of your laws?
Cleinias: A God, Stranger; in very truth a, God: among us Cretans he is said to have been Zeus, but in Lacedaemon, whence our friend here comes, I believe they would say that Apollo is their lawgiver
Athenian Stranger: And do you, Cleinias, believe, as Homer tells, that every ninth year Minos went to converse with his Olympian sire, and was inspired by him to make laws for your cities?
Cleinias: Yes, that is our tradition
Gods are said to be the author of laws, a matter of divine rather than human authority. Minos was the first king of Crete. His father was Zeus. His mother, Europa, was human and a foreigner, seduced or raped by Zeus in the form of a bull. So, the answer to the Athenian’s question in not a god or a man. Minos, the lawgiver, was half god half man. (A common theme in Plato is mixture - not this or that but some combination of opposites, differences, and likenesses).
As the dialogue progresses Cleinias tells the stranger that he has been given the task of creating the laws for a new Cretan colony and asks the stranger's help in creating the laws.
Here mythological beginnings are left behind. It is the task of humans to make the laws. Perhaps Plato’s last word on the matter is not the choice between obeying the law or being above the law but of making just laws. But just laws for citizens who are less than just is not sufficient. The goal of just laws is the education of just citizens.
In the dialogue Gorgias Socrates claims that he is one of the few if not the only living Athenian able to practice politics, the only one with the true political art (521d) I will not go into what this might mean, but it indicates that the true practice of politics was something other than the public life he shunned. It is to be found in the care of the soul. Gorgias was a sophist who taught and practiced the art of rhetoric, that is, persuasion and winning arguments. Socrates too practiced the art of rhetoric but with the goal of improving others.
The tension between the individual and the city can be thought of in terms of another of Plato’s favorite analogies: music. Harmony and dissonance in music is a matter of tension. Whether the tension is harmonious or dissonant is a matter of tuning. The best city, the city with the best laws, is in harmony with the best citizens, who in this case would most closely coincide with the best humans. It is in turn the best humans who are most capable of making the best laws. Once again we return to education. Socrates, and following him Plato, Xenophon, Antistenes and others practice the political art through the cultivation of the soul (psyche) of lawgivers and citizens, and to this end the art of the poets and sophists is put to extensive use..