A Few Questions Regarding Plato and The Republic..

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ryz0n
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 09:37 pm
Hey guys, my task is to answer these questions in short-answer form. I have a general idea about most of them but would like to see what you guys have to say to clear up anything I may be missing. I only need to answer 4 out of 5.

1) Socratic Intellectualism is a claim about the intellectual nature of virtue. Please
explain what kind of claim this is, and compare it with Plato's later view about the
relation between wisdom and the character virtues, as we find it in the Republic.

2) What is Plato's justification for the 'principle of specialization'? How does this principle
contribute to the constitution of the ideal City and to the concept of justice/lawfulness in
such a City?

3) Describe and explain Plato's critique of mathematical thinking in Republic VI and VII.-
Why does mathematical thinking fall short of genuine knowledge?

4) Why does Plato think that hedonism is wrong, and why would he, in Republic IX,
nevertheless include an argument from pleasure in support of the philosophical life?

5) The simile of the Cave: Why is our general human condition like that of the prisoners
in a cave? What does the 'freeing' of the prisoners mean? And how are we to be
'liberated' according to Plato?
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 09:40 pm
@ryz0n,
Hi ryz0n,

These are all interesting and worthy subjects, but I don't think it's the right approach for us to be doing your homework for you.

However, if you want to generate conversation about any of those subjects, I'm sure it would be welcome so long as you give your ideas first.
 
ryz0n
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 09:55 pm
@ryz0n,
Sorry about that, I meant to talk a little about each but I just wanted to get the questions out there first. Referring to number 5 and Plato's cave allegory, is the meaning of "freeing" the prisoners essentially just widening their perspective and enabling them to see the true objects, i.e. the Forms? It is essentially clarifying their beliefs by directing them towards the truth? When he asks us for how we are to be liberated, do you think he is referring to Plato's belief that we must use thought or reason to acquire an understanding of Forms and of the good? When we appeal to reason and think outside of the physical world, are we liberated? Would it also be applicable to mention the purpose of education being to direct minds towards the Good or the right kind of knowledge, rather than just teaching on the grounds that the mind lacks it?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 08:57 am
@ryz0n,
ryz0n wrote:
Sorry about that, I meant to talk a little about each but I just wanted to get the questions out there first. Referring to number 5 and Plato's cave allegory, is the meaning of "freeing" the prisoners essentially just widening their perspective and enabling them to see the true objects, i.e. the Forms? It is essentially clarifying their beliefs by directing them towards the truth? When he asks us for how we are to be liberated, do you think he is referring to Plato's belief that we must use thought or reason to acquire an understanding of Forms and of the good? When we appeal to reason and think outside of the physical world, are we liberated? Would it also be applicable to mention the purpose of education being to direct minds towards the Good or the right kind of knowledge, rather than just teaching on the grounds that the mind lacks it?


I think it is freeing the prisoners from the chains that bind them. And those chains are their belief that sense-perception can inform them of reality. They are, therefore, condemned to mistake appearance for reality. It is only when they shake off their chains, that they can turn around and observe reality, not with their senses, because they cannot observe reality with their senses, but with their intellect. Until then, they are "lovers of sights and sounds", but not truth.
 
Phronimos
 
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 09:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;53876 wrote:
I think it is freeing the prisoners from the chains that bind them. And those chains are their belief that sense-perception can inform them of reality. They are, therefore, condemned to mistake appearance for reality. It is only when they shake off their chains, that they can turn around and observe reality, not with their senses, because they cannot observe reality with their senses, but with their intellect. Until then, they are "lovers of sights and sounds", but not truth.


Right, and to build off that: the people in the cave think that the shadows they see on the walls are the real things that one is capable of having true knowledge about, whereas Plato thinks that what you really have knowledge of are fixed, non-contingent objects, i.e. the forms (say, the form of a chair, human, justice, etc.), which for Plato literally exist in the universe; in fact, Plato thinks that the forms are more real and grounded in reality than the blurred manifestations of them we encounter through the prism of our sense-experience.

As for the liberation question, I don't want to answer this for you, but I'll suggest that you look at it as a kind of educational process. I think that analogy ought to help you unpack liberation a bit.
 
ryz0n
 
Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 08:23 pm
@Phronimos,
Thanks for the help guys. I also am a little confused about the question regarding Plato's critique on mathematics. He gives an example of geometry and how those thinkers will draw a square or diagonal line expecting their image to mimic the real Form. Is this wrong then to build theories and arithmetic off of these shapes, numbers, etc. that are visual because while the mathematician thinks of the Form of a square and draws it, he should really be questioning the actual Form of a square and wondering why a square is, or why it has four sides? Thus, these people are working based off of their own visual representations of Forms rather than the Forms themselves? Is this why he critiques mathematics?
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 09:32 pm
@ryz0n,
ryz0n wrote:
Hey guys, my task is to answer these questions in short-answer form. I have a general idea about most of them but would like to see what you guys have to say to clear up anything I may be missing. I only need to answer 4 out of 5.

1) Socratic Intellectualism is a claim about the intellectual nature of virtue. Please
explain what kind of claim this is, and compare it with Plato's later view about the
relation between wisdom and the character virtues, as we find it in the Republic.

2) What is Plato's justification for the 'principle of specialization'? How does this principle
contribute to the constitution of the ideal City and to the concept of justice/lawfulness in
such a City?

3) Describe and explain Plato's critique of mathematical thinking in Republic VI and VII.-
Why does mathematical thinking fall short of genuine knowledge?

4) Why does Plato think that hedonism is wrong, and why would he, in Republic IX,
nevertheless include an argument from pleasure in support of the philosophical life?

5) The simile of the Cave: Why is our general human condition like that of the prisoners
in a cave? What does the 'freeing' of the prisoners mean? And how are we to be
'liberated' according to Plato?

I can't answer any of these questions... I have tried to struggle through the republic several times, and did not like the politics of it or even some of the basic reasoning...

Knowedge is virtue is one of the few things, perhaps the only philosophical idea pinned directly to Socrates. Those people were watching their world and their city fall apart... They thought they could rationalize virtue... You cannot..It cannot be done... People do good because they feel good...Look at the meaning of ethics... Character or custom is the original meaning... It is related to natural comunities... Instead of rational morality, all people are moral to their mothers, their bothers, and their families... Morality is natural...Community is morality... Because the wealth of Athens was dividing the people, their natural morality was being destroyed... What is the cure for that...it is opposite of the cure Plato sought... He wanted more of the poison...
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 18 Mar, 2009 09:46 pm
@ryz0n,
ryz0n wrote:
Thanks for the help guys. I also am a little confused about the question regarding Plato's critique on mathematics. He gives an example of geometry and how those thinkers will draw a square or diagonal line expecting their image to mimic the real Form. Is this wrong then to build theories and arithmetic off of these shapes, numbers, etc. that are visual because while the mathematician thinks of the Form of a square and draws it, he should really be questioning the actual Form of a square and wondering why a square is, or why it has four sides? Thus, these people are working based off of their own visual representations of Forms rather than the Forms themselves? Is this why he critiques mathematics?

I always took another lesson from that example, that he was actually proving the equality of slaves with masters... But he was making an argument for metaphysics, that is a'priori knowledge, and how can that be accounted for???

You are actually asking about his theory of forms which again is wrongly conceived as metaphysical... We do not think so much as they in a serious sense of the world being created... What I think is that seeing the order of their universe, that they conceived of it has having been created of an idea of perfection... That is, that the form of a circle is a perfect blue print (form) of circles, which in reality which are not perfect..From this perfection god made reality... The fact is more that all forms are perfect, and unreal, and that real examples of forms are real and imperfect... We conceive of a dog...is it a good dog, a better dog, or a worse dog??? An ideal Dog will have all the traits of a true dog, and he won't crap on the rug... No ideal dog will have three legs, but I know a dog with three legs... His sire and ***** had four each, but he has three, and is no less a dog... But since we cannot conceive of the forms so, since the perfect dog is also the average, standard, better, and good, every dog, and your dog all rolled into one, it is perfect... We have forms, and our forms are ours...There is nothing metaphysical, or even physical about them... They are psychological, the means by which we classify and represent our reality...
 
Phronimos
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 01:38 pm
@Fido,
Fido;54145 wrote:
I always took another lesson from that example, that he was actually proving the equality of slaves with masters... But he was making an argument for metaphysics, that is a'priori knowledge, and how can that be accounted for???

You are actually asking about his theory of forms which again is wrongly conceived as metaphysical... We do not think so much as they in a serious sense of the world being created... What I think is that seeing the order of their universe, that they conceived of it has having been created of an idea of perfection... That is, that the form of a circle is a perfect blue print (form) of circles, which in reality which are not perfect..From this perfection god made reality... The fact is more that all forms are perfect, and unreal, and that real examples of forms are real and imperfect... We conceive of a dog...is it a good dog, a better dog, or a worse dog??? An ideal Dog will have all the traits of a true dog, and he won't crap on the rug... No ideal dog will have three legs, but I know a dog with three legs... His sire and ***** had four each, but he has three, and is no less a dog... But since we cannot conceive of the forms so, since the perfect dog is also the average, standard, better, and good, every dog, and your dog all rolled into one, it is perfect... We have forms, and our forms are ours...There is nothing metaphysical, or even physical about them... They are psychological, the means by which we classify and represent our reality...


I think you're thinking of the Meno, and Socrates contention that the slave boy already has knowledge of geometry, he has just forgotten how to use it. The short explanation for how that makes sense is that the boy's eternal soul already knows it, and that the current physical embodiment of the soul has just lost its way, probably due to all the distracting contingent sensible things around it in the world. This view helps to unpack the allegory of the cave.

Also, for Plato, the forms do literally exist and are eternal (even if human beings or the universe ceased to exist). That was one heavy point of contention between Plato and Aristotle, as Aristotle wanted to bring the forms down from the heavens so to speak.
 
Phronimos
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 01:43 pm
@ryz0n,
ryz0n;54118 wrote:
Thanks for the help guys. I also am a little confused about the question regarding Plato's critique on mathematics. He gives an example of geometry and how those thinkers will draw a square or diagonal line expecting their image to mimic the real Form. Is this wrong then to build theories and arithmetic off of these shapes, numbers, etc. that are visual because while the mathematician thinks of the Form of a square and draws it, he should really be questioning the actual Form of a square and wondering why a square is, or why it has four sides? Thus, these people are working based off of their own visual representations of Forms rather than the Forms themselves? Is this why he critiques mathematics?


It's been awhile since I focused on this part of the Republic. But from what I recall, I think it's best to look at mathematics, from Plato, as part of a hierarchy of knowledge. Math is very, very high up there, far more well-regarded by Plato then more everyday knowledge or sense perception, but by itself it still won't give you knowledge of the forms, and most importantly knowledge of the good (agathon, i believe in the Greek).
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 04:41 pm
@Phronimos,
Phronimos wrote:
I think you're thinking of the Meno, and Socrates contention that the slave boy already has knowledge of geometry, he has just forgotten how to use it. The short explanation for how that makes sense is that the boy's eternal soul already knows it, and that the current physical embodiment of the soul has just lost its way, probably due to all the distracting contingent sensible things around it in the world. This view helps to unpack the allegory of the cave.

Also, for Plato, the forms do literally exist and are eternal (even if human beings or the universe ceased to exist). That was one heavy point of contention between Plato and Aristotle, as Aristotle wanted to bring the forms down from the heavens so to speak.

Arisototle was right in this case.
 
Phronimos
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 06:40 pm
@Fido,
Fido;54245 wrote:
Arisototle was right in this case.


I'd agree, although Plato does deserve some credit for his willingness to challenge his own assumptions. For example, in the Parmenides dialogue, he subjects his earlier conception of the forms (from either the Meno or Phaedo I think) to a number of harsh criticisms, one of the most famous being the 'third man' objection where the forms theory degenerates into an infinite regress.
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 08:45 pm
@Phronimos,
Phronimos wrote:
I'd agree, although Plato does deserve some credit for his willingness to challenge his own assumptions. For example, in the Parmenides dialogue, he subjects his earlier conception of the forms (from either the Meno or Phaedo I think) to a number of harsh criticisms, one of the most famous being the 'third man' objection where the forms theory degenerates into an infinite regress.


It is more than twenty years since I read those dialogues, though not so long since I have read of them... All in all it is a great body of work, but I was very impressed with the character of the man, Socrates, and now I am less so, unless he was the guy who knocked all the dicks off those priapus's when the fleet left to fight the Peloponnese....That would take some nerve, but it sounds just like something he would do...

I don't buy infinite regress... I do buy that forms have a utilitarian purpose, and that our ability with forms is the essential human quality... Clearly, ancient peoples confused the image with the object, the sign with the symbolized...That was one reason the Roman pantheon was filled with images from all their conquered peoples, because in carting off their god, they captured the god in fact, and in that sense made slaves to all who had pldged themselves to the diety for safety... Back when people considered the emperor a God, there is at least one instance of people in the street urging others to devote themselves to the genius of the emperor... Do you know what that means??? Devote???
Compared to such people we are much more able to handle abstraction, and even to consider abstraction abstractly..

You know, I am trying to learn Greek now, a little at a time...It is difficult to imagine how small their universe was with what we know today... We say galaxy... from galaktikos, milky from galos, milk... Do you see the lactos... And yet, that was when the milky way was the only galaxy, and now they are seemingly without limit, all milky after our own... They all did good work, and we forget how good without effective measuring devices... There was not much wrong with their heads, but as Socrates and Plato both show; their problem was moral...And in a sense, that problem remains for philosophy: Is knowledge virtue??? Is knowledge such that it makes men who own it Good??? True knowledge perhaps if that can be defined; but that is natural knowledge, because children do not naturally turn on their parents, or even their siblings...Ethics springs from affection, and affection from nature, which we share with family and our nation...
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 19 Mar, 2009 08:48 pm
@Phronimos,
Phronimos wrote:
I'd agree, although Plato does deserve some credit for his willingness to challenge his own assumptions. For example, in the Parmenides dialogue, he subjects his earlier conception of the forms (from either the Meno or Phaedo I think) to a number of harsh criticisms, one of the most famous being the 'third man' objection where the forms theory degenerates into an infinite regress.

I must wonder if such an approach was under the influence of Aristotle, because Aristotle seemed to present all sides of an issue under study, before reaching a conclusion of his own...Left to himself, I think Plato would more often have resorted to straw dogs that he could kick the stuffing out of... The discussion of Justice in the Republic is such a one... I think he disposses of the notion of Justice as being to each his due all too readily... I would have put up more of a fight had I been there..

I can also see something in forms that he could not...In abstracting the form, he abstracted people out of it... What is true of all forms is that each is a form of relationship... Just as we relate through philosophy, and he related through math or logic or politics; or as most philosophers- did not relate at all... This is the true value of forms, that we understand the world through them, and recreate our world through them, and in every sense, relate through them, and this last is the true measure of value in forms... If they serve the relationship...So, we can judge each form by the relationship; but turning that around can compare and judge every relationship through the form, since all relationships have forms, and formality...And Jefferson touched on this in the Declaration of Independence; as did Aristotle in virtually the first words of politics when he says governments are instituted for good because all that people do is for good; my paraphrase... What is that good??? Is it some abstraction, or is it good for the people in their relationships, leading to their happiness and survival???

Clearly good did not come out of government in Athens, not through their democracy which could not achieve justice, nor from their oligarchy, which as Socrates himself pointed out, reduced the herd rather than increased it...Even though some of his thinking was behind that pro spartan elitism, it is to his credit that he did not much support the reality of the oligarchy...The people were still justified in killing him...I only judge him on facts he could not understand, while they, the facts, were much closer to him in time... And Nietzsche too could be judged in such a fashion... Too often he like Socrates seemed to justify the worth of the wealthy when they could not see that the meaness of the poor was the flip side of the same coin... As Montaigne said: the gain of one man is the loss for another; again my paraphrase..Thanks.
 
 

 
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