From Classical to Contemporary

To the Cave
HUM 2051: Civilization I
Fall 2010
Dr. Perdigao
September 24-29, 2010
Some Forms
• Sophists—“men of wisdom”
• Socrates (469-399 BCE)
• Place of Socratic thought as counter to system
• Aristophanes—critic of both Socrates and Sophists
• Plato (429-347 BCE): astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy,
metaphysics, ethics
• Forms/Ideas vs. relativism of Sophists
• Plato—founded the Academy, history of philosophical tradition—in
dialogue/dialectic model
• Rise to epistemology (how we know what we know)
The Charges
• Thirty Tyrants
• Persecution and execution of Socrates because of his follower Critias (one
of Thirty’s leaders)
• Impiety
• 501 male citizens
• Death vs. exile
The Stance
• Apology as defense: “So, men of Athens, I’m far from pleading in my own
defense now, as might be supposed. Instead, I’m pleading in yours, so that
you don’t commit a great wrong against the god’s gift to you by
condemning me” (770)
• Gadfly that “awakens, cajoles, and reproaches” (770)
• Achilles’ example (768): “You see, fearing death, gentlemen, is nothing
other than thinking one is wise when one isn’t, since it’s thinking one
knows what one doesn’t know” (769).
• “it’s the greatest good for a man to discuss virtues every day . . . on the
grounds that the unexamined life isn’t worth living for a human being”
• Orpheus, Homer, Ajax, Odysseus, Sisyphus—following those examples,
like Odysseus
Republic as “true apology”
• From Alan Bloom’s “Interpretive Essay”:
“The Republic shows us why Socrates was accused and why there was good
reason to accuse him. Not only does he tell us about the good regime, but
we see his effect on the young men he was said to have corrupted.
Socrates, in leading them to a justice which is not Athenian, or even Greek,
but is rather human, precisely because it is rational, shows the way to the
truth about political things and develops the extremely complex
relationship of that truth to civil society. These questions are most
relevant to modern man, although they are perhaps harder for him to
understand than for men of any previous generation. . . . For these reasons
it behooves us to study the Republic. For it is the first book which brings
philosophy ‘down into the cities’; and we watch in it the foundation of
political science, the only discipline which can bring the blessings of reason
to the city” (310).
Paradoxical Understandings
• Meno’s paradox: if you know, then why ask questions but how do you
know to ask questions if you do not know?
• Translation: You need to know what you are looking for to find it and, if
you don’t know what you are looking for, there is no need to search for it.
So how do we come to know anything?
• Function of justice, based on rules and fear
• Glaucon (Plato’s brother), Adaimantus (Plato’s brother)
• Glaucon’s social contract: desire to do unjust things but fear others will do
injustice—we act just through fear; problem with democracy
• Laws are lies, only the appearance of justice
• City of speech—goal to tell beneficial lies; gold, silver, bronze races lead to
classes; if we come from the earth, then we are more loyal to earth and city
The Just City
• Virtues in The Republic:
– Wisdom (rulers know good for city and act in those interests)
– Courage (guardians do what they must)
– Moderation (all groups in city, their relationships; agreement of ruler
and those to be ruled, in natural harmony—craftsman is ruler of the
shoe, knowledge=what everyone strives to rule)
– Justice (be just, then moderation will flow from it)
Hierarchy of the City, the Self
• Philosopher knows self but lies to others
• Aristophanes’ Clouds shows Socrates worshipping them but clouds side
with gods, teach him how to be politically savvy
• Sun=nature; Good=light of the sun
Rulers: Reason
Guardians: Thumos
Craftsmen: Eros
• Reason—in philosophy, reason and erotic desire are sharable—but his erotic
desire doesn’t transgress anyone else’s
• Question if philosophers corrupt the city, intelligence for selves or others—
for sake of city
• Sun is truth and reality
• Divided line—Sun: light and power of the sun/world of sight and things
• From belief to knowledge:
images: objects: thought-images: ideas or ideals
belief: mathematical thought: dialectical thought
the changing world of the senses: understanding: exercise
of reason
• Ideal is in the realm of Good—the Real (in The Allegory of the Cave):
– Come to know ideals and act accordingly in the world
– As pure concept, compared to imitations
– Literature as second order imitation