Plato

Sunday Quotation-Sir Thomas More

‘The fact is, even the sternest ascetic tends to be slightly inconsistent in his condemnation of pleasure. He may sentence you to a life of hard labour, inadequate sleep, and general discomfort, but he’ll also tell you to do your best to ease the pains and privations of others. He’ll regard all such attempts to improve the human situation as laudable acts of humanity – for obviously nothing could be more humane, or more natural for a human being, than to relieve other people’s sufferings, put an end to their miseries, and restore their joie de vivre, that is, their capacity for pleasure. So, why shouldn’t it be equally natural to do the same thing for oneself?’

More, Thomas. Utopia. Penguin (trans. Paul Turner), 1965. Print.

Hmmm…

“His problem (Plato’s) with the arts was that they operated by images rather than by ideas, and thus that they might cloud the truth rather than clarifying it.”

Yes, and religious traditions, for example, also have interpretations of how one ought to reproduce the image.

“Whatever one thinks of Plato’s solution to this problem, I suggest that this is one of the problems that elicited his proposals for severe censorship of the arts he so obviously loved and had been trained in.”

Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’

Burnyeat beginning at minute 2:20 of video five:

‘Aristotelianism is actually opposed to that sort of materialism [Heraclitus and atomic doctrine] but Aristotelianism carries the war so far into the enemy camp that it’s actually very hard to reconcile the Aristotelian philosophy with the modern scientific enterprise which says a lot about atoms, the movements of particles…matter and that sort of stuff….

‘…and indeed I think it was no accident that when the modern scientific enterprise got going, it got going by throwing away the Aristotelianism which had so dominated the Middle-Ages.’

But, Platonism is much easier to reconcile with the modern scientific enterprise and that’s why I think, since the Renaissance, really, Platonism has lived on after the death of Aristotelianism because that’s a philosophy you can use, or be influenced by, if you’re seeking to show how scientific and spiritual values can be reconciled…if you want to do justice to the complexities of things where materialism is giving just too simplistic a story.’

From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…

From YouTube: J.P. Stern On Nietzsche…Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Via A Reader-BBC Discussion Of Arthur Schopenhauer

Thanks, reader:  ‘Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Guests include A.C. Grayling, Béatrice Han-Pile and Chris Janaway.’

It’s all pretty much will, but how he arrives at such a metaphysics gets some treatment.

As posted:

‘The separation between so-called duties of law and duties of virtue, more correctly between justice and philanthropy, which was effected by Kant in so forced and unnatural a manner, results here entirely of itself and thereby testifies to the correctness of the principle.  It is the natural, unmistakable, and sharp boundary between the negative and positive, between doing no injury and helping.’

Schopenhauer, Arthur. On The Basis Of Morality.

Also On This Site:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantRepost-From YouTube-Bryan Magee: On The Ideas Of Quine

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Matt Ridley’s Evolutionary Science of Lucretian Libertarianism ‘

Full post here.

‘LIMITED GOVERNMENT OR LIBERTARIAN ANARCHY?
In some previous posts (here, here, and here), I have commented on the debate between classical liberals and libertarian anarchists as to whether a self-regulating society without government is possible.  Traditionally, classical liberals like Locke and Smith have said that yes, we need government, but only a limited government, to secure the conditions of liberty–to protect the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to provide some public goods that cannot be provided by private groups.  In response to this, libertarian anarchists have argued that limited government fails, because there is a natural tendency for the powers of government to expand.  The liberal idea that society is an evolved, self-organizing order should lead to the anarchist idea of society without government.

Ridley is unclear as to where he stands in this debate.  On the one hand, he embraces Smith, and he sees that Smith “was no anarchist” (112).  Like Smith, Ridley believes that “there is a vital role for government to play” (101).  On the other hand, in explaining the evolution of government as originating as “a mafia protection racket,” Ridley scorns “the government skyhook” (150, 238-241); and he is fascinated by historical examples of societies without much government in which multiple private law enforcers emerged. ‘

Definitely worth a read.

As previously posted:

Here’s John Gray in the Guardian on Ridley’s new book (Gray’s position is more or less that scientific progress is going on, but in human affairs, ethics and politics, things are learned but don’t stay learned…better to be pessimistic/realistic when it comes to the possibility of our reason making the world any better in these realms).

He’s not a fan of Ridley’s rational optimism:

‘If The Evolution of Everything has any value, it’s as a demonstration that, outside of science, there isn’t much progress – even of the vaguer sort – in the history of thought. Bad ideas aren’t defeated by falsification, and they don’t fade away. As Ridley’s book shows, they simply recur, quite often in increasingly primitive and incoherent forms.’

The two have butted heads before regarding Ridley’s last book:

‘John Gray, in his review of my book The Rational Optimist accuses me of being an apologist for social Darwinism. This vile accusation could not be farther from the truth. I have resolutely criticised both eugenics and social Darwinism in several of my books. I have consistently argued that both policies are morally wrong, politically authoritarian and practically foolish. In my new book I make a wholly different and more interesting argument, namely that if evolution occurs among ideas, then it is ideas, not people, that struggle, compete and die.’

How far will rationalism stretch and tell us true things about the world, predict the future and be a place to put one’s hopes? How far will Darwin’s ideas travel well?

A few years ago, Larry Arnhart at Darwinian Conservatism took a look at Ridley as opposed to Paul Erhlich’s ‘The Population Bomb’ predictions:

‘Notice that in this new journalistic coverage for Ehrlich’s Malthusian pessimism, there are no references to the arguments of people like Simon and Ridley.  Even in the articles in Nature, the scientists are careful not to mention the historical record supporting Darwinian optimism.’

Also On This Site: .Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Two Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”

From Maverick Philosopher: ‘Peter van Inwagen, “A Theory Of Properties,” Exposition And Critique

Exposition and critique here.

‘I’ll begin the critique with the last point. “We never see properties, although we see that certain things have certain properties.” (179)  If van Inwagen can ‘peter out,’ so can I: I honestly don’t know what to make of the second  clause of the quoted sentence.  I am now, with a brain properly caffeinated, staring at my blue coffee cup in good light.  Van Inwagen’s claim is that I do not see the blueness of the cup, though I do see that the cup is blue.  Here I balk.  If I don’t see blueness, or blue, when I look at the cup, how can I see (literally see, with the eyes of the head, not the eye of the mind) that the cup is blue?’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Found here——Kraut, Richard.  The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1992.

“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis.  Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure.  In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup.  In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest.  Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.

Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides.  Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world.  This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”

Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Found here——Kraut, Richard.  The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1992.

“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis.  Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure.  In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup.  In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest.  Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.

Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides.  Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world.  This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”

Sunday Quotation: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Found here——Kraut, Richard.  The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1992.

“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis.  Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure.  In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup.  In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest.  Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.

Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides.  Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world.  This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”

Also On This Site: What are some dangers of the projects of reason in the wake of the Enlightenment: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Leo Strauss tried to tackle that problem, among others with the reason/revelation distinction, did he succeed?:  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

Why is it so important to build a secular structure…what are some of the arguments for doing so…or at least for deeper equality through the laws: : Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

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Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

Full piece here. (passed along by a reader).

According to Jaffa:

“Strauss’s critique of modern philosophy, as it seemed to me, was directed above all towards overcoming what he often called the self-destruction of reason, so that the authority equally of classical philosophy and the Bible, with respect to virtue and morality, might be restored. This restoration, I am convinced, is also nothing less than the restoration of the perspective of the American Founding.”

Is this analysis unnecessarily drawing philosophy into the political realm as Strauss was careful to argue against?  As Jaffa might argue:  is it freeing philosophy and religion from the passion of politics?…or at least from one of the main targets, which is the fusion of reason and revelation into states that can sink into potential tyranny these past few hundred years?

Here’s a quote from a letter Jaffa received (included at the link), which I think attempts to highlight one of the roles of Plato’s metaphysics (providing a metaphysical foundation for moral instruction and knowledge):

“In Plato (and still more in Aristotle) one can see the philosophers replacing the poets (and/or the sophists) — and the gods of the poets (and/or the sophists) — as the source of a non-contradictory moral instruction. Of course, the philosophers will not rule directly but through the new breed of sophists and poets resulting from their influence upon education; or, as in the case of Aristotle, through the gentlemen whose education they will supervise. But the God of the Bible is immune to Plato’s critique of paganism, for reasons I have already (I think) made sufficiently clear.”

Does the analysis lean too heavily on philosophical idealism?  Can Plato do all that heavy lifting for our times, or is that asking too much of philosophy as well?

Also On This Site:  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

Nussbaum is a deep thinker, drawing on Aristotle among others, how would the analysis above see her?:    From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

From Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky Discuss The Epistemology Of Science When revelation and reason go hand in hand?  Should math be non-instrumental, and free of such Platonisms?

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From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?


Via a reader, a supplemental lecture (part of a course) on Strauss’ three waves of modernity:

Strauss briefly highlighted (about 40 years ago now in this video) what he saw as two intellectually/academically predominant ways of approaching political philosophy that have rejected it as a pursuit of the good:

1. Positivism-“The only form of genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge…and science knows only facts, or relations of facts.”-Video 1-Minute 4:40

Outside of (S)cience, you are only discussing values, or relations of ideas which are less than factual, and thus perhaps not knowable (or certainly not with the same claim upon (T)ruth).  Of course, this doesn’t prevent people from pursuing “The Great Society,” or “The Open Society” or other ideas which likely influence politics in the wake of positivism…but it can prevent the kind of project Strauss wanted to pursue.

Strauss also brings up:

2. Historicism-:  “All human thought, including scientific thought, rests ultimately on premises, which cannot be validated by human reason, and which change from historical epoch to historical epoch.”-Video 2-Minute 4:10.

This is mostly a critique of Hegel and absolute idealism.

From Aristotle to Locke, thinkers have presented really different and conflicting ideas on what a good society ought to be.  Historicism suggests that this is because they lived in different times, with different problems.  So, as you look back upon history you must see them as part of their contexts/cultures/times.  Yet, in so doing, the lens with which you understand their times assumes that you can have an absolute knowledge of time itself.

Paradoxically, like Hegel, you are then claiming to have absolute knowledge but also claiming that you can’t have absolute knowledge within the bounds of reason (or claiming that there are absolute ideas, however unknowable).

The Meno here.

Just a few ideas. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

See Also On This Site:  From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”

Also, if Strauss relies so much on the reason/revelation distinction, and heavily on Plato and philosophical idealism (as opposed to empiricism, say) does he miss some of what that tradition has meant for political freedom in the U.S.?  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

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