• 180 Proof
    14.7k
    I despair of the American situation. And can only hope that Trump doesn't win again. It doesn't bear thinking about...Amity
    It doesn't, but the thought haunts me.

    It's strange but when I read 'Socratic philosopher', I was thinking of Stoicism. I wouldn't say I am a 'Stoic philosopher' but I adopted the perspective.Amity
    Maybe that's because Stoicism is, putting it simplistically, the Socratic method applied covertly (or strategically) to practical / political life. 'Radically moderate' yet effective. Unapplied, however, elenchus is mostly therapeutic (e.g. (late) Wittgenstein).
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    To question is also to challenge the status quo.Amity

    That is true. Socrates does question in order to challenge.

    In the interpretive tradition of the Midrash, questioning is a mode of understanding. This may come as a surprise to those who have been taught not to question scripture.

    The Stoics revered Socrates, but that Socrates wasn't the Socrates of Plato.

    From Cicero:

    But Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil. And his different methods of discussing questions, together with the variety of his topics, and the greatness of his abilities, being immortalized by the memory and writings of Plato, gave rise to many sects of philosophers of different sentiments, of all which I have principally adhered to that one which, in my opinion, Socrates himself followed; and argue so as to conceal my own opinion ...
    (Tusculan Disputations, Book V, IV)
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Whose words are they? Second-hand Socrates? Who is the audience and how will they be persuaded by whatever message the author is attempting to convey.Amity

    Some of the myths are probably Plato's own, but Socrates credits the ancients of different cultures. Some take themes, such as the afterlife and recollection, which Socrates says are hearsay., that is, things he has heard but has no first hand experience of. I think this relates to the question of who the audience is. The philosopher who desires the truth will not take these stories as true, but as part of her education they may be suitable.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    I wonder what words he used so that you felt his nostalgia?Amity

    That is an interesting question. It is easy when pointing at large mythological elements. I will have to think about it as related to more subtle themes. I am not trying to argue for that against other readings of the text.
  • Amity
    4.7k
    I recently re-read the Sophist and was struck at how Plato expressed a kind of nostalgia in his writing of the dialogue. The literary device of the Stranger is a reflective view of previous work in many ways.Paine

    I wonder what words he used so that you felt his nostalgia?
    — Amity

    That is an interesting question.
    Paine

    After I asked the question, I thought it might not be in the words but the gaps between. Any silence. Or change in tone that you picked up on.
    Perhaps it was simply the change of perspective; a different literary device and way to look at Socrates and his place in Plato.

    Another interesting question is: What do you think Plato was nostalgic for? Has his life changed so much from the early days. As a student of Socrates. The arguments they might have had. What Socrates would think of the progress of his student and how he is being used. Even if it means that without Plato, his story might have been lost? Did Plato feel closer to the spirit of Socrates in the early dialogues?

    I found an article which doesn't answer my questions but deals with nostalgia, images and words:
    https://www.oxfordpublicphilosophy.com/two/plato-poetry-nostalgia

    Plato purports, in his dialogues, to develop a new, intellectually hygienic genre of writing: dialectic. Where poetry acts as a pharmakon -- a kind of intellectual toxin, or drug, that makes us sleepy and forgetful, dialectic wakes us up. But the Socratic dialogue is an overtly theatrical form, blending comedic and tragic elements.Plato, poetry, and nostalgia - Oxford public philosophy

    The article addresses fascinating issues lightly and creatively. We fall into Lucy in Narnia. Then, Annie Dillard’s, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, the narrator greedily recites accounts given of and by patients who, having spent their lives blinded by cataracts, become suddenly sighted:
    'Instead of a “dazzle of colour patches” she sees peaches. The colour patches seem lost forever. She mourns. “I cannot unpeach the peaches”.

    It made me wonder more about Plato the man and the way he used his creative energies. Perhaps, the obsession with Socrates and political philosophy meant he denied his own poetry and self-expression. Creating stories of magic. But then again...priorities, priorities...promotion of philosophy.
    The never-ending story...pathways and interpretations.

    Most significant, perhaps, is Plato’s choice of mouthpiece, Socrates. Plato’s dialogues do not mark Socrates’ debut as a literary character. The philosopher was something of a stock figure in Athenian comedy, and Socrates appeared on the stage cast in this mould, most famously, as a fraudulent crank in Aristophanes’ satire, Clouds. Plato could have channeled his philosophy through a figure of his own making. But he didn’t; instead, he chose a figure with a literary hinterland.

    It was more than this. There was a special love and closeness...and a need to defend; to carry on and support ideas in new ways.
    Also, grief and loss to be filled. I like to think so, anyway...but my imagination carries me away...
  • Amity
    4.7k
    The philosopher who desires the truth will not take these stories as true, but as part of her education they may be suitable.Fooloso4

    Well. I really don't know how to respond to this. It depends on what you mean by 'the philosopher'.
    What variety? I don't think of myself as a 'philosopher' but someone who enjoys different aspects. Of? Yes, its stories. All concerning life as we know it, even if we can't grasp it all.

    Any story can be an 'education'. A way to learn about self and others - we create our own and share.
    As to 'suitability' who is the judge? It isn't always about a desire for truth, is it? I really don't find it easy to talk about the Big Truth or little truths as something to aim for.
  • Amity
    4.7k
    From Cicero:

    But Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil. And his different methods of discussing questions, together with the variety of his topics, and the greatness of his abilities, being immortalized by the memory and writings of Plato, gave rise to many sects of philosophers of different sentiments, of all which I have principally adhered to that one which, in my opinion, Socrates himself followed; and argue so as to conceal my own opinion ...
    (Tusculan Disputations, Book V, IV)
    Fooloso4

    Yes, thanks for the quote. Have you read all of the Tusculan Disputations?

    I searched for the context and found this:
    https://www.attalus.org/info/tusculan.html
    'Cicero's Tusculan Disputations, written in 45 B.C., is a discussion of various topics that had been explored by Greek philosophers. It takes the form of conversations at Cicero's Tusculan villa.
    The dialogue is split into five books, and links to the translation of each part of these books can be found in the following table:'
    Easy to find Book 5. From section 4:

    [...] But numbers and motions, and the beginning and end of all things, were the subjects of the ancient philosophy down to Socrates, who was a pupil of Archelaus, who had been the disciple of Anaxagoras. These made diligent inquiry into the magnitude of the stars, their distances, courses, and all that relates to the heavens. But Socrates was the first who brought down philosophy from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil.

    It continues:

    I have sent you a book of the four former days' discussions; but the fifth day, when we had seated ourselves as before, what we were to dispute on was proposed thus:-

    [5.] [12] A. I do not think virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life.

    M. But my friend Brutus thinks so, whose judgment, with submission, I greatly prefer to yours.

    A. I make no doubt of it; but your regard for him is not the business now; the question is now what is the real character of that quality of which I have declared my opinion. I wish you to dispute on that.

    M. What! do you deny that virtue can possibly be sufficient for a happy life?

    A. It is what I entirely deny.

    M. What! is not virtue sufficient to enable us to live as we ought, honestly, commendably, or, in fine, to live well?

    A. Certainly sufficient.

    M. Can you, then, help calling anyone miserable, who lives ill? or will you deny that anyone who you allow lives well, must inevitably live happily?
    Cicero - Tusculan Disputations,

    I didn't read much more but can only wonder at this seeming continuation. Is it a form of nostalgia?
    Distinguished, exclusive male followers of Socrates. In a different time and setting but still same old concerns? Would you have loved to have been there?
  • Amity
    4.7k
    Maybe that's because Stoicism is, putting it simplistically, the Socratic method applied covertly (or strategically) to practical / political life. 'Radically moderate' yet effective. Unapplied, however, elenchus is mostly therapeutic (e.g. (late) Wittgenstein).180 Proof

    Perhaps so. I don't know. But I think Stoicism is not just one thing. It grew and split as so many do. Ideas transplanted into other fields like psychology and CBT. Therapy via logic and reasoning.
    Just as Wittgenstein moved on. I haven't read much of him - don't know of any therapeutic effect.

    Edit to add:
    I've since scanned the Quietism article you linked to:
    Quietism in philosophy sees the role of philosophy as broadly therapeutic or remedial.[1] Quietist philosophers believe that philosophy has no positive thesis to contribute; rather, it defuses confusions in the linguistic and conceptual frameworks of other subjects, including non-quietist philosophy.[2] For quietists, advancing knowledge or settling debates (particularly those between realists and non-realists)[3] is not the job of philosophy, rather philosophy should liberate the mind by diagnosing confusing concepts. [...]

    Contemporary discussion of quietism can be traced back to Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose work greatly influenced the ordinary language philosophers. While Wittgenstein himself did not advocate quietism, he expressed sympathy with the viewpoint.
    Wiki - Quietism

    Perhaps philosophy is good at 'diagnosing confusing concepts' but not sure that this has liberated the mind. It seems any untanglements simply lead to more, no? Even adding to the problem...with different interpretations and neologisms...more 'isms'.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Thank you for the article. The play of tragic and comedic elements is important in Plato's work and life. I will try to address that later as I need to do chores soon. But I will say something quickly about the interesting idea of a denial of self-expression that Fraser brings forward.

    The absence of Plato in the dialogues amongst people he lived with has a weird narrative effect. He is present throughout but hiding at the same time. In the Phaedo, the device is performed in front of us like a magic act. It is as if I handed you a photo album of my life events and you discover that I have used scissors to remove my image whenever I am in the shot.

    Nostalgia must be involved but it does not give the Proustian vibe of 'remembrance of things past'.

    Now to chores. My wife is asking for a greater display of practical reason over the theoretical for the coming week.
  • Amity
    4.7k
    My wife is asking for a greater display of practical reason over the theoretical for the coming week.Paine

    Sounds like she is applying the art and science of practical wisdom.

    Not in any sense a 'nag' or jealous shrew as poor Xanthippe is sometimes depicted.

    From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthippe

    It is only in Xenophon's Symposium where Socrates agrees that she is (in Antisthenes' words) "the hardest to get along with of all the women there are."[7] Nevertheless, Socrates adds that he chose her precisely because of her argumentative spirit:

    It is the example of the rider who wishes to become an expert horseman: "None of your soft-mouthed, docile animals for me," he says; "the horse for me to own must show some spirit" in the belief, no doubt, if he can manage such an animal, it will be easy enough to deal with every other horse besides. And that is just my case. I wish to deal with human beings, to associate with man in general; hence my choice of wife. I know full well, if I can tolerate her spirit, I can with ease attach myself to every human being else.[8] [...]

    In his essay "The Case for Xanthippe" (1960), Robert Graves suggested that the stereotype of Xanthippe as a misguided shrew is emblematic of an ancient struggle between masculinity (rationality, philosophy) and femininity (intuition, poetry), and that the rise of philosophy in Socrates' time has led to rationality and scientific pursuit coming to exercise an unreasonable dominance over human life and culture.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Here are brief articles which summarize my understanding of 'philosophy as therapy' beginning with the Socratic method in (early) Plato's Dialogues, followed later by the Pyrrhonian epoché (re: undecidable statements (e.g. metaphysics, theology, ethics)) ... and reimagined explicitly via Wittgenstein's clarification of latent nonsense inherent in meta-discourses (early) and then more broadly as descriptions of conceptual confusions as symptoms of philosophers' misuses of everyday language (late)):

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quietism_(philosophy)

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeutic_approach

    My point is, Amity, that 'rigorous conceptual clarification' (i.e. dialectics / therapy) is only a means and not the end (which is, imo, 'eudaimonic praxis') of Stoicism; thus, the Stoic philosopher reminds us, in part, of (Plato's early) Socrates. No doubt others will take issue with this sketchy interpretation; hopefully, however, the above is informative enough to point you in a fruitful direction.

    NB: I do not consider myself a 'philosophical quietist / therapist' (even though I agree with Witty that philosophy is not theoretical (i.e. doesn't explain matters of fact) – that, for me, it's only reflectively hermeneutic-pragmatic (Epicurus ... Spinoza ... Hume ... Peirce-Dewey ...)).
  • Amity
    4.7k

    Thanks for this. I had just returned and edited my original request to be given a 'direction'. It seemed lazy of me. Our posts crossed and I'm glad you posted your thoughts. It is indeed informative and I will take time to read... hopefully to improve my understanding.

    NB: I do not consider myself a 'philosophical quietist / therapist' (even though I agree with Witty that philosophy is not theoretical (i.e. doesn't explain matters of fact) – that, for me, it's only reflectively hermeneutic-pragmatic (Epicurus ... Spinoza ... Hume ... Peirce-Dewey ...)).180 Proof

    OK...'only' that, huh?! Sounds good to me :cool: and quite the journey...
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    It depends on what you mean by 'the philosopher'.Amity

    I mean the philosopher in the context of the education of the philosopher in the Republic.

    It isn't always about a desire for truth, is it? I really don't find it easy to talk about the Big Truth or little truths as something to aim for.Amity

    I think Nietzsche points in the right direction:

    He identifies three deadly truths:

    ... the doctrines of sovereign becoming, of the fluidity of all concepts, types and species, of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animals
    (Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations)

    These doctrines are the antithesis of what are often regarded as key Platonic doctrines based on immutable kinds or forms, which are key to the education of philosopher.

    It is not simply that we do not always desire the truth, but that certain truths should be hidden, because they can be harmful.

    That these truths are deadly may seem odd to us because:

    “No one dies of fatal truths nowadays: there are too many antidotes.” (Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits)

    That anything should remain hidden seems to us antithetical to free and open inquiry. But free and open inquiry is not value neutral. Plato's noble lies are not simply a political expedient. We have paid a price for "deadly truth". That what was long held out as the truth may not be the truth is a hard truth to accept. It can leave us rudderless.

    On the question of the philosopher Nietzsche says:

    The real philosophers, however, are commanders and law-givers ...
    (BGE 211)

    Accordingly, most who study and write on philosophy are not philosophers. He reserves the title for the rare, exception individuals who shape and determine our lives.


    Have you read all of the Tusculan Disputations?Amity

    Most of it I have not read.

    Is it a form of nostalgia?Amity

    I think the last line I quoted is important:

    ... and argue so as to conceal my own opinion ...
  • Amity
    4.7k

    Thanks for the clarification and context of 'the philosopher'.

    I really don't understand Nietzsche's identification of 3 truths, deadly or otherwise:
    He identifies three deadly truths:

    ... the doctrines of sovereign becoming, of the fluidity of all concepts, types and species, of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animals
    (Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations)

    These doctrines are the antithesis of what are often regarded as key Platonic doctrines based on immutable kinds or forms, which are key to the education of philosopher.
    Fooloso4

    How is that pointing in the right direction?
    You would need to spell this out before I might appreciate the difference. Otherwise I would need to read and I'm not tempted to read N. especially when he says this:

    The real philosophers, however, are commanders and law-givers ...
    (BGE 211)

    Accordingly, most who study and write on philosophy are not philosophers. He reserves the title for the rare, exception individuals who shape and determine our lives.
    Fooloso4

    The talk of 'real philosophers' suggests that is a 'truth' for him. It doesn't make sense to me and sounds provocative. However, it would be wrong and stupid of me to judge by only reading snippets of his thoughts.

    I'm surprised that you haven't read all of the Disputations - where's your dedication, man? :wink:

    I think the last line I quoted is important:

    ... and argue so as to conceal my own opinion ...
    Fooloso4

    Yes, I wondered at that. I'm aware that these politically and philosophically motivated men lived in dangerous times. They witnessed how Socrates paid the ultimate price. So many philosophers wrote in ways to hide their identity and been quite creative in keeping alive. Until...
    Is that what you meant?
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    How is that pointing in the right direction?Amity

    In the Republic the education of the philosopher consists of gymnastics and music. That music is in large part appropriate stories. This education does not include philosophy. That comes later for those few with the right temperament and maturity. The developmental stages do not include the quest for the truth. The "truth" as it is given moves from stories to mathematics, from what is told to them as true to what can be demonstrated as true.

    Our relation to the truth has changed. This is reflected in your statement:

    I really don't find it easy to talk about the Big Truth or little truths as something to aim for.Amity

    And so, your question:

    It isn't always about a desire for truth, is it?Amity

    is not so simple. Whether or not we might think the truth is or is not preferable, we do not have a choice, unless perhaps we live in a closed, sheltered society.

    The talk of 'real philosophers' suggests that is a 'truth' for him.Amity

    We might look at this in different ways. As a truth for him, this might be regarded as merely his perspective, no more or less true than others. But perspectives are for him of great importance and not to be dismissed simply as one way of seeing things rather than some alternative. Perspectivism is additive. Not a matter of either this one or that one, but of what can be gained from seeing things this way or that way or this way and that way.

    We need to consider what he means when he says that real philosophers are commanders and law-givers and whether or not it is true. It is in this way not simply a truth for him. In order to test this we need to look at how certain thinkers and ideas have influenced the way we think, what we believe, and how we live.

    In so far as he intends to influence the philosophers who come after him, we might regard this as the story he tells them. If they are to be philosophers, what are their responsibilities to others both now and in the future? If, to use Plato's imagery, they are to be puppet-masters and opinion makers, what stories are they to tell?

    where's your dedication, man?Amity

    I have limited time and energy. I am not sure where I will spend it, but it probably will not with Cicero.

    Is that what you meant?Amity

    Yes. I don't think the need to hide, however, is for us at this moment something necessary, but that may change in the next few years.
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