Tuesday, August 08, 2006

LYSIS

This dialogue is about Socrates attempting to show Hippothales how to woo another boy named Lysis.The talk turns to the various motivations and definitions of friendship.

The first consideration is that the lover and the beloved are friends.This notion is rejected as it is entirely possible for the lover to dislike the beloved.

The second consideration is that like befriends like and unlike befriends unlike.This notion is rejected as like may not desire anything from like and it is unlikely that two unlikes will want to be friends.

The third notion is that good is befriended by a neutral(neither good nor bad) element.This freindship would be motivated by the presence of evil in the environment.This is also unlikely as the cause of friendship is unlikely to be for the sake of something else and is even more unlikely to be motivated by evil.

The final thesis is that desire, a neutral element, causes desire.This desire arises due to congeniality between parties.However this congeniality does not solve the problem of like not having a reason to befriend like.The debate then breaks up without conclusion.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

THE APOLOGY

Socrates, accused of not recognizing the gods that are recognized by the state of Athens , inventing his own dieties and corrupting the minds of young Athenians, stands trial before the citizens of the state.He makes his defence speech ( known as apologia in Greek), and therefore the name.

Socrates was first accused of attempting to give physical explanations of divine occurances and charging a fee for for his teachings. He denied these claims.He surmises that this thinkinhg may have cpome about dueto the Oracle at delphi which proclaims him the wisest of all men.He was puzzled as he always said he knows nothing.To test this, Socrates questioned many people. Supposedly wise politicians, the poets of his time and many craftsmen. he discovered that the politicians were full of hot air, the poets were unable to explain even their own works and the craftsmen were very similar to the politicians. he then concluded that he was the wisest among them all because he at least knows that he knows nothing.

Socrates questions his cheif accuser.He is accused of contradicting himself by accusing Socrates of atheism and of inventing new gods. Socrates persisted in his practice without fearing the death sentence as he did not know what happened after death. He reasoned that if he feared death, he would be implying that he knew what happened after death.Socrates also pointed out that most of the youngsters he is accused of corrupting are upright young men and even their families do not accuse him of corrupting them.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

THE SYMPOSIUM

The symposium gives us a number of varying perspectives on love.in this piece of work , we see Plato denouncing sexual love and romance, valuing an asexual love for beauty and wisdom above all.A philosopher's pursuit of knowldege is stated to be the most valuabe of all pursuits. Plato obviously values philosophy over a number of other pursuits such as comedy, medicine or tragedy.There is some discussion as to what exactly is discussed in the symposium. Does it refer to normal human love or desires in a much broader sense of the word?Diotima may have given an answer to that by saying that while all kinds of desire can be regarded as love, we usually use the word to denote a feeling of affection between beings.

It is interesting to note how Socrates is the lover of wisdom and the lover of beauty but has neither qualities. This is instumental in pointing out that those who follow these footsteps may not attain wisdom but will definitely attain fulfillment.It is also interesting to note how Diotima suggests that the truth must be uncovered slowly, one step at a time.

PLATO'S CAVE




Imagine prisoners who have been chained up in the above cave since childhood such that they are facing the wall. The roadway is where puppet shows are performed and the fire is behind the roadway.The prisoners see nothing but the shadows cast by the puppet shows.They give these shadows names such as 'tree' or'girl' etc. As the puppet carries speak from behind them , they believe that the shadows themselves are speaking. This is because the shadows are the only reality they know.

Suppose one of the prisoners has been freed and is forced to turn around. his eyes will be blinded by the firelight and the shapes he sees will appear less real than the shadows. now suppose this prisoner goes out of the cave.At first he will not be able to see much, but soon he discovers the wonderful world outside. the world of colours and shapes. in another words, he finds true reality.This will take him some time to accept.

Now suppose this enlightened prisioner goes back to the cave to attempt to free his fellow prisoners. The problem is, these prisoners, not knowing any other reality than their world of shadows, will not want to be freed.The freed prisoner is likely to be inferior at the process of entertaining oneself with shadows. This is likely to make the other prisoners murderous towards him.

The Republic

The logical complications ofthis piece of work has had many political scientists and philosophers debating for many centuries.Plato argues that the idea of a government is completely natural to man and can be achieved through reason.He also lays out the guiding principles of governance.
The work begins with Socrates asking a group of villagers what is meant by justice. Many define justice as obeying laws etc. Socartes , however, refutes each statement and presents justice as the ultimate good.

Plato then goes on to describe how a government must be run with this concept of ultimate good.Plato argues that each and every member of a society should give a share which is most ntural to him to the society. Only then can will that person be doin justice to himself and to the society as a whole.

The work also states that the leader of a society must be a philosopher who has completely mastered logic.Only then can this leader realise how things should be. as such , Plato was strongly in favour of an autocracy with a strict caste system, seeing this as the only way to ultimate justice.







ABOUT PLATO


Background

Plato was born into a wealthy athenian family.His father was related to the early kings of Athens. His mother was the niece of a wealthy nobleman.His mother's uncle and siter were both students of Socrates.He excelled in every area. He was outstanding in sports, music and his academics. During the war with Sparta, he won a prize for bravery. He became a student of Socrates at the age of 20.

His uncle was killed in a civil war between the aristocrats and democrats. His teacher, Socrates, was executed by the demcratic regime. This led him to be disillousioned with democracy.He then left his native city.He briefly returned in 395BC, after which he continued his travells. He was then sold to slavery in Syracuse.he then bought back his freedom with 3000 drachmas. He returned to Athens in 387 BC.


His Academy

In 386 BC, Plato bought a grove dedicated to Academus where he built his academy.The students in this school did not have to pay a fee.Rich students were expected to give gifts.The academy was co-educational.The academy was open only to students with a knowledege of geometry.The students studied Higher Astronomy, Mathematics, Music,Literature,law and Philosophy. He died around 347 BC, teaching until his very end.