Plato, “Gorgias” & ‘epistemic closure’

In Gorgias, Plato expands on many of the themes of the Republic while posing the implicit question: Why do democracies fail? In particular, why did Athenian democracy fail? In doing so, he makes a distinction between the Orator and the True Politician that brought to my mind the Levin/Manzi debate raging in the blogosphere. Okay,…

Euripides, “The Bacchae”

It’s a bit of a cliche to suggest that, if you want to understand the 60s, the play to see isn’t Hair; it’s the Bacchae. A depiction of orgiastic release that tips over, as if naturally, into horrific violence, the Bacchae also shows the failings of secular powers that have grown out of touch and…

Plato’s Republic (3): The Soul

In The Republic, Plato attempts to translate the Sacred Order of transcendent Being into the Social Order of the Polis. In a philosophical soul, the higher reason will rule over the lower instincts by applying what it apprehends of the divine and eternal Forms to behavior; similarly, a philosophical state will support the spiritual development…

Plato’s Republic (2): Women & Men

Plato’s ideal state is not a patriarchy. In a number of ways, it actively promotes a radical sort of equality between the sexes, in spite of Socrates’s insistence that the accomplishments of women will be naturally inferior. This seeming incongruity has, not surprisingly, tied his readers in knots since the Republic was first translated into…

Plato: “The Republic” and its Censors (1)

The Republic is an exceedingly difficult text to write about. This is because it’s that rarest of books: one that everyone calls a must-read, and that they actually have read. Gallons of ink have been spilled on Republic exegesis, and at least a few cupfuls went to a good cause. Meanwhile, undergraduate professors seem to…

Bum’s Rush on the Bayou

Dominique Homberger, biology professor, is one of those “tough” profs we’ve all had. She holds her students to a high standard because she says, “I believe in these students. They are capable.” What-ever, dude! The students complained that the first exam was “too hard”, and so LSU fired her mid-semester (note: fired from teaching this…

Plato: Timaeus, Critias, and Mystical Thinking

So, how does Plato explain interaction between the Forms, which are eternal, unchanging Being; and the physical world, which is changing (and mortal) Becoming? In the Timaeus treatise, he adds the clarifying concept of a physical “receptacle of becoming” and details how the soul (Being) is contained in our bodies (Becoming) and our world. Timaeus…

When Parmenides met Socrates

Parmenides clearly had an influence on Plato. The assertion that we live in a world of appearances, which gives the illusion of change and difference that Parmenides thinks are impossible, makes its way into Plato’s sensible world of phenomena, while the concept of a higher metaphysical reality- the world of Ideas, is somewhat similar to…

Bookless Libraries

Allow me to disagree with those who agree that the disagreement between Jason and me, which was more an agreement, was not useful or instructive. Ahem! (Note: I can’t promise this will be interesting…) Okay, I see that we were both coming to the same point: that there are some scales of value that market…

Parmenides and non-Parmenides

First off, I’m not sure we can say the philosophy of Parmenides exactly “works”. That is, I don’t think we can take his ideas as precepts. Because, essentially, Parmenides speaks of the impossibility of speaking truthfully about things that do not exist. So, even this paragraph is a problem: Parmenides does not exist, so I…

____, baby, ____!

Sarah Palin: “Stall, baby, stall“. This is, of course, a variation on, “Drill, baby, drill!” That seems to be a variation of “Burn, baby, burn!” which has always struck me as strange, since the saying was probably coined by Maoist radical Bill Epton, who was arrested (for “criminal anarchy”!) for saying it in 1964 prior…

Heraclitus, the Cosmic Fire, and Universal Flux

The pre-Socratic philosophers are, to be blunt, intensely fucking exciting. They really are. And I think it’s because they’re trying to answer, in an understandably limited way, the same questions we’re still addressing, for instance with the Large Hadron Collider: What is the fundamental nature of the universe? What is the world made of? How…

Monday Poetry: Two by Sappho

Sappho is one of the first and greatest poetic singers of romantic longing and the ‘bittersweet’, an image she apparently coined. Along with the Greek lyric poets (Archilochus, Sappho, Mimnermus, Alcaeus) of the Archaic age (7th-6th centuries) she moved poetry away from the sweeping epic to the individual and personal. Does Homer ever deal with…

The Sarah Palin Effect

Personally, I’m a Palin agnostic, but this line in an article in the recent Catholic Register cracked me up: “(T)he American-born professor also warns that a close association between conservative, reactionary politics and religion is driving better educated Americans away from church, what Scott Schieman calls “the Sarah Palin effect.”

Sophocles “Oedipus Rex”

Oedipus Rex is an extraordinarily cruel play. Oedipus has seemingly done nothing wrong and lacks the fatal flaw that would justify the way that coincidences and events align against him. The punishment is completely disproportional to his crime, which seems to have been his birth. And whatever he does to extricate himself from his fate…

The Polls and the Polis

In a really crackerjack post, Mr. Dierkes, writes: “The hallmark of the liberal procedural republic according to Sandel is that citizens are treated as consumers. The market becomes the dominant form of thought and practice in the polis. Beings become instrumentalized and utilitarian ethics is the only (meager) form of ethics/morality left in such a…

The End of Tenure

Via email, I’ve been asked my thoughts on tenure and the troubles it can cause, so I’d like to wade into that very heated debate. Hopefully, the piranhas aren’t biting today. Okay, the argument against tenure is easy to understand. How many jobs have a milestone which, once one has passed it, makes it nearly…

Book Club: Plato “The Symposium”

Update: I’ve been asked to link to some translations. Here is the Perseus Project Symposium English translation which includes the Greek linked at the right. There is also the Internet Classics Archive Benjamin Jowett translation. Angie Hobbs did a great podcast on erotic love in the Symposium. Here is the Gutenberg Project’s Jowett translation. Google…

Mapping Herodotus

Via Rogue Classicism comes a truly awesome project at Leeds: The Herodotus Encoded Space-Text Image Archive (HESTIA). Using digital technologies like Google Earth, they’ve mapped out all the spatial information in Herodotus. You’ve got to see the settlement map on page 30. What a great resource!

We Don’t Need No (overpriced) Education

Taking a breather from celebrity nudity and Rob Reiner’s thoughts on health care, the Huffington Post is currently on a tear about college tuition rates. Angry undergrads are protesting tuition hikes across California and other parts of the country; they have good reason to be upset. I’d like to try to explain why tuition rates…

The League Book Club

In keeping with Mr. Kain’s suggestion for more interaction at this party (less sitting in the corner of the room, glumly sipping a whiskey sour) and pivoting off of Mr. Schaengold’s great post about eros and tragedy, I’d like to suggest that we meet up here next Wednesday to discuss Plato’s Symposium. Several people have…

To trip the light mechanic

If you’re in Paris, you absolutely must go see “sans objet” at Théâtre des Abbesses. As Le Monde explains, it is “a piece for a robot and two interpretive-acrobats” dancing together. The robot is one of those giant mechanical arms once used to make automobiles. To me, this smells like a hit.

2-1

Living in a Canadian/American household, the tension is pretty high right now as Canada leads 2-1 in the third period of the last match of the Olympics. No matter who wins, however, this has been a pretty great game to watch, and I’m not usually a hockey fan. Update: Overtime! 2-2! Update 2: Sudden victory!…

The Coffee Party

Tired of hearing about the Tea Parties? WaPo introduces the “Coffee Party”, which aims to “promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.” All…

Aeschylus “The Oresteia”

The Oresteia is a monument to the advent of law and order over primitive cycles of vengeance. The three-play cycle (the only complete Greek trilogy we have) was first performed at the Dionysia festival in Athens in 458 BCE and won first prize. It was understandably a crowd pleaser, as it celebrates the recently established…

The Syrup Party?

Is Canada getting a tea party? The Economist suggests so, pointing to the Wildrose Alliance, a group formed in Alberta because the Conservative Party isn’t sufficiently conservative for Albertans. (My neighbour explains all of Canadian politics thusly: “Alberta and Quebec basically balance each other out.”)