Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, February 16, 2018

Group report by Mary Sadek, Bola Attaalla - There is A God

Discussion questions:

Is chance or creator God a more logical explanation of the world? Why or why not?

When I consider the universe and life itself, what could be my response to God?

Quiz questions:
1. Why did Antony Flew felt compelled to abandon his atheism and embrace theism?

2. Is it by chance that life exists on earth or is it a work of God?

3. Did the universe know we were coming?

4. What is the possibity for life to exist on earth?

5. How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and coded chemistry?

6. According to Antony Flew, how did matter become living matter that can reproduce?

Quizzes Feb 20, 22

LH 2
1. What did Aristotle mean by "one swallow doesn't make a summer"?

2. In Raphael's School of Athens, who reaches out towards the world in front of him?

3. What does eudaimonia mean?

4. How can we increase our chance of eudaimonia?

5. Eudaimonia can only be achieved in relation to what?

6. What is "truth by authority"?

7. How is authority hostile to the spirit of philosophy?

FL 17-18
8. What theme park opened in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century?

9. Who was Robert Love Taylor and what did he lecture about?

10. What 1915 movie contributed to the growth of the KKK? 

11. What do southerners turn away from, according to The Mind of the South?

12. What was foolish, according to the modernist New Theology of the early 20th century?

13. How did Christian modernists reconcile scripture with science?

14. What happened in Dayton TN in the summer of 1925, and what did Clarence Darrow say about "what Tennessee had done"?

  • What's the difference, for you, between pleasure and happiness? 
  • If you were depicted in Raphael's School of Athens whose side would you be on, Plato's or Aristotle's? Or would you be in a posture more like Diogenes's?
  • Do you agree with Aristotle that tragic events occurring after your death, like your child's tragic illness, can still impact your happiness?
  • Are you happy? Are you a hedonist?
  • Do you believe anything strictly on the basis of authority, whether that of a person, an institution, or a tradition? Why or why not?

Quiz Feb 22
1. What did Aristotle set up in 335 BC?

2. What was dearer to Aristotle than Plato?

3. What was the fundamental difference between Aristotle and Plato, and how was it reflected in his attitude towards the "cave"?

4. What three things did Aristotle say are always involved in change?

5. What was Aristotle's name for God, and what did he say He thinks about?

6. How does Aristotle's view of the fundamental type of existence contrast with Plato's theory of Forms?

FL 19-20
7. How did [does] movies narrow the gap between fantasy and reality?

8. How did [does] advertizing use fantasies?

9. Who did some in Orson Welles' radio audience think his fictional Martians might be?

10. What increased by orders of magnitude in the first three decades of the 20th century, with what result?


  • Would you rather attend Plato's Academy or Aristotle's Lyceum? Why?
  • Have you ever sharply disagreed with a teacher whom you nonetheless deeply admired?
  • Is change the only constant in the Universe? Is that paradoxical?
  • Which God seems more plausible to you, one who is personally interested in human affairs or Aristotle's contemplative and self-regarding Mover? Which seems more compatible with the world as we know it?
  • Are forms in things, or do they stand apart and above as pure Ideas?
  • What do you see as the value of logic?
  • How can a person excel at "the art of living"? (275) Did Aristotle have the right idea about this? Do you have any role-models in this regard?
  • Aristotle said we philosophize not in order to know what excellence is, but to be excellent and become good. (283) Is this a false dichotomy? Do you have to know what good is, at least implicitly, before you can be good?
  • Is art a "cave within a cave" (286), or a source of light and truth? Or both?
  • Do you agree with Plato that "laughing at comedies makes us cyncial, shallow and ignoble"? (289)
  • If you side with Aristotle in preferring to study "earthly things" does that imply less interest in "thoughts of the heavens"? (290)

Russell: IN the corpus of Aristotle's works, three treatises on ethics have a place, but tow of these are now generally held to be by disciples. the third, the Nicomachean Ethics, remains for the most part unquestioned as to authenticity, but even in this book there is a portion (Books V, VI, and VII) which is held by many to have been incorporated from one of the works of disciples. I shall, however, ignore this controversial question, and treat the book as a whole and as Aristotle's. The views of Aristotle on ethics represent, in the main, the prevailing opinions of educated and experienced men of his day. They are not, like Plato's, impregnated with mystical religion; nor do they -172- countenance such unorthodox theories as are to be found in the Republic concerning property and the family. Those who neither fall below nor rise above the level of decent, well-behaved citizens will find in the Ethics a systematic account of the principles by which they hold that their conduct shold be regulated. Those who demand anything more will be disappointed. The book appeals to the respectable middle-aged, and has been used by them, especially since the seveteenth century, to repress the ardours and enthusiasms of the young. But to a man with any depth of feeling it cannot but be repulsive. The good, we are told, is happiness, which is an activity of the soul. Aristotle says that Plato was right in dividing the soul into tow parts, one rational, the other irrational. The irrational part itself he divides into the vegetative (which is found even in plants) and the appetitive (which is found in all animals). the appetitive part may be in some degree rational, when the goods that it seeks are such as reason approves of. This is essential to the account of virtue, for reason alone, in Aristotle, is purely contemplative, and does not, without the help of appetite, lead to any practical activity. There are tow kinds of virtues, intellectual and moral, corresponding to the two parts of the soul. Intellectual virtues result from teaching, moral virtues from habit. It is the business of the legislator to make the citizens good by forming good habits. We become just by performing just acts, and similarly as regards other virtues. By being compelled to acquire good habits, we shall in time, Aristotle thinks, come to find pleasure in performing good actions. One is reminded of Hamlet's speech to his mother: Assume a virtue if you have it not. That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat, Of habits devil, is angel, yet in this, That to the use of actions fair and good He likewise gives a frock or livery That aptly is put on. We now come to the famous doctrine of the golden mean. Every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice. This is proved by an examination of the various virtues. Courage is a mean between cowardice and rashness; liberality, between prodigality and -173- meanness; proper pride, between vanity and humility; ready wit, between buffoonery and boorishness; modesty, between bashfulness and shamelessness. Some virtues do not seem to fit into this scheme; for instance, truthfulness. Aristotle says that this is a mean between boastfulness and mock-modesty (1108a), but this only applies to truthfulness about oneself. I do not see how truthfulness in any wider sense can be fitted into the scheme. There was once a mayor who had adopted Aristotle's doctrine; at the end of his term of office he made a speech saying that he had endeavoured to steer the narrow line between partiality on the one hand and impartiality on the other. The view of truthfulness as a mean seems scarcely less absurd. Aristotle's opinions on moral questions are always such as were conventional in his day. One some points they differ from those of our time, chiefly where some form of aristocracy comes in. We think that human beings, at least in ethical theory, all have equal rights, and that justice involves equality; Aristotle thinks that justice involves, not equality, but right proportion, which is only sometimes equality...
IEP: Aristotle is a towering figure in ancient Greek philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. He was more empirically-minded than Plato or Socrates and is famous for rejecting Plato's theory of forms.
As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. It is no wonder that Aquinas referred to him simply as "The Philosopher." In his lifetime, Aristotle wrote as many as 200 treatises, of which only 31 survive. Unfortunately for us, these works are in the form of lecture notes and draft manuscripts never intended for general readership, so they do not demonstrate his reputed polished prose style which attracted many great followers, including the Roman Cicero. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics, biology, and ethics. Some of these classifications are still used today.
As the father of the field of logic, he was the first to develop a formalized system for reasoning. Aristotle observed that the validity of any argument can be determined by its structure rather than its content. A classic example of a valid argument is his syllogism: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal. Given the structure of this argument, as long as the premises are true, then the conclusion is also guaranteed to be true. Aristotle’s brand of logic dominated this area of thought until the rise of modern propositional logic and predicate logic 2000 years later.
Aristotle’s emphasis on good reasoning combined with his belief in the scientific method forms the backdrop for most of his work. For example, in his work in ethics and politics, Aristotle identifies the highest good with intellectual virtue; that is, a moral person is one who cultivates certain virtues based on reasoning. And in his work on psychology and the soul, Aristotle distinguishes sense perception from reason, which unifies and interprets the sense perceptions and is the source of all knowledge.
Aristotle famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms, which states that properties such as beauty are abstract universal entities that exist independent of the objects themselves. Instead, he argued that forms are intrinsic to the objects and cannot exist apart from them, and so must be studied in relation to them. However, in discussing art, Aristotle seems to reject this, and instead argues for idealized universal form which artists attempt to capture in their work.

Aristotle was the founder of the Lyceum, a school of learning based in Athens, Greece; and he was an inspiration for the Peripatetics, his followers from the Lyceum... IEP

“One swallow does not make a summer,
neither does one fine day; 
similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” 

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” 

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” 

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” 

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” 

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” 

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” 

More quotes attributed to Aristotle...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mitch Martens, Jasper Von Buseck, Jake Dolinka

Discussion Questions : -Do you think your an optimist, pessimist, or rejectionist? -Do you think nothing actually exist? - What is nothing? - Which theory do you agree most with? Quiz questions- 1. Who wrote the book? 2. What is the main question of the book? 3. Who came up with the sufficient theory? 4. What are the 3 groups Holt catagorizes philosophers into. 5. What was Robert Nozick's answer to the question? 6. How much matter does it take to create a universe according to Andrea Linde?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentines Day!

Inline image 1

Against hate

A message from President McPhee:

To the University community, We are aware, and are closely monitoring, the posting of unauthorized materials on our campus by Vanguard America, a white supremacist group. Some of these posts have been done specifically to deface materials related to our campus celebration of Black History Month; others have been anti-Semitic. Media reports indicate that several universities across the nation, including some in Tennessee, have discovered similar materials on their campuses. Members of this group, and other similar groups, are targeting college campuses in the hopes that their hateful messages will bring attention and notoriety to their causes. As such, my note to you today shall be brief and to the point. There is no place here for hateful rhetoric, displays or actions that demean any member of the MTSU family. While we will respect the right of free speech when exercised within the policies of the University, we will also continue to take all appropriate action to make our campus as safe and inclusive as possible. We strongly condemn the views of white supremacists and other hate groups. We will maintain our focus on the enrichment that comes to our campus through the wide range of diversity represented by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and we will refuse to give to hate groups the attention that they seek. The values of our True Blue Pledge commit us to reason, not violence; to both listening and speaking; and to our membership in this diverse community. I am proud that our community celebrates and supports the differences among us, as we also seek to build upon our commonalities. Sincerely,Sidney A. McPheePresident

Monday, February 12, 2018

Alternative Spring Break

The Office of Student Organizations & Service sponsors Alternative Spring Break trips to provide students with an opportunity to make a difference in the community. The ASB program is an experience that has grown quickly at colleges and universities across the country. Students participate in intensive service experiences that provide them an opportunity to make a true difference in the lives of others by giving of themselves. By providing needed services, team members learn from the people and organizations they encounter, and gain a better understanding of the world.
What is ASB?The Alternative Spring Break program is one in which a select group of students participate in various volunteering roles outside of their comfort zone. Each trip will focus on a different social issue which might include homelessness, hunger, environment, etc.
How can I get involved?
Visit http://mtsu.edu/sos/breaks.php
Alternative Spring Break 2018
Alternative Spring Break is open to any student and you may register today. The deadline to register is Wednesday, February 28, 2018 by 4:30pm.
What are the dates?
March 5-8, 2018
How much will this cost?
Participants will expect a $15 registration fee for the week. Cost includes meals and a t-shirt. 
How will we get there?
We will carpool to our volunteer locations.

Jonathan Gandy
Graduate Assistant
Student Organizations and Service
Center for Student Involvement and Leadership
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Student Union 330
Box 1
Murfreesboro, TN  37132

Brendan McGee and Brandon Hafeli's Quiz and Discussion Questions:

Link to Book, Religion and Aitheism, a Critical Appraisal. (It's a book PREIVIEW, so make sure to choose your pages wisely.)

[What pages did you want us to read, guys? I've embedded the preview below. Also, please copy-edit your text above. jpo]

Quiz Questions:
1. What is the name of the author?

2. What bible verse is used to emphasize that at one time a belief in God was absolute and unquestionable?

3. What was the name of the 1600's philosopher who was considered the arch heretic of that era?

4. How does Platzner describe Spinoza?

5. Who was considered Spinoza's successor and offered a more nuanced form of "religious naturalism"

6. Who was considered Mordecai's successor and wrote much about the Holocaust, especially Auschwitz and how it shook his world and religious views.

Discussion Questions:
1. How do the different philosophers views relate to one another?

2. Is God a single deity or a force of nature?

3. What is the difference and what are your beliefs between monotheistic and polytheistic.

4. Do you agree or disagree with the views of these men?

The fourth chapter of Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, C.C.W Taylor writes about the methods of argument and doctrines in Plato’s Apology and his twelve dialogues. He tells us most of his dialogues have common features. These features are characterization, definition, ethics, and the Sophists. Socrates is usually characterized in the dialogues not as a teacher, but as an inquirer of the person’s beliefs and wisdom. A feature which is found in most of the dialogues is definition, where questions such as what is temperance, what is holiness, what is courage, and what is a one virtue. These definitions are discussed respectively in the dialogues, Laches, Charmides, Hippias Major, Meno and, Protagoras. Another feature Taylor discusses is ethics, which answers practical ethical problems like how someone should live as discussed in Crito, Gorgias and Euthydemus and finally the views of the sophist versus those of Socrates.

We start out with the characterization of why did Socrates disavow wisdom? When the oracle of Delphi answered no to the question was anyone wiser than Socrates, he was puzzled. Since this occurs in the Apology and is written as a defense for Socrates, could it be that this was intended to set the ground work for a defensive argument against the accusation that he was corrupting the youth of Athens? Since one had to have knowledge to be a teacher and since wisdom is knowledge, if one didn’t have wisdom he couldn’t have the knowledge to teach, therefore he could not corrupt the youth of Athens. This would be the reason he went out to prove he wasn’t the wisest of men. Taylor explains that in the Apology, Socrates admits craftsmen have wisdom. With this wisdom, one of the humans and not the complete or divine wisdom which only god can have, they would be able to teach others their craft but limited to their craft. The sophists, on the other hand, claimed they had the expertise to teach others all they needed to know to have a successful life. Socrates did not accept this claim from the Sophists for he believed they lacked the systematic learning it would take to acquire this skill.
This is not ‘Socratic irony’ or what the author describes as ‘pretending ignorance for dialectical purposes’. The Apology does not claim Socrates used dialectics to disavow knowledge, but he uses questioning to break down what a person thinks he knows in a way to dispute his claims of knowledge. This would make a person a non-expert indicating he only knows some things, but not like an expert who has expansive knowledge. These experts we are told, lack the moral expertise, as this expertise is only possessed by the god.

Socrates clearly sees the ideal knowledge pattern, but although he claims some knowledge, he does not have the ideal knowledge. In my thinking, if this is true, then how does Socrates know what questions to ask to dispute a person’s claim to knowledge? To me, it makes sense that ‘complete knowledge’ is needed to break down a person’s view of his knowledge. Taylor concludes this section by saying although Socrates questioning reveals non-expert knowledge, not all non-expert knowledge is achieved by this method but gives no evidence on how this non-expert knowledge is obtained.

Taylor tells us Socrates quest for expertise is the reason for his interest in definitions. To fully understand a subject one has to know what the subject is, thus the question ‘What is such-and-such appears in several of Plato’s writings. In the dialogue The Charmides, the question of whether Charmides has self-control cannot be answered until self-control is defined. This became known as the Socratic fallacy. Another example is from the dialogue Hippias Major, there Socrates is conversing about what is fine and what is disgraceful when someone who was described as rude asked Socrates how he would know when something is fine or disgraceful. When Socrates and Hippias failed to define fine, Socrates thought to himself what if any of my speeches or action which I thought were fine may not have been since I didn’t know when something is fine. In which he concluded some cases cannot be settled if the what if a question cannot be answered. Finally, in this section, another variety of questions is discussed this time with the addition of a possessor. For example, from the dialogue Meno, does Meno have any property cannot be answered if one does not know Meno is and if one can identify the subject it is no means point towards a definition. The author ties this all together by saying, ‘The search for definitions, then, is the search of expertise, and the possessor of expertise possesses a theory of the subject-matter of that expertise, in addition, a grasp of its nature which delivers answers to further questions.

Ethics is another feature used in the dialogues. In Protagoras, Plato depicts Socrates as not quite having the expertise of the subject matter of goodness, but does have the general knowledge of it. Socrates as it appears went from a questioner to somewhat to a theorist, although not an expert one. The theory as I read it is the success in life is having the knowledge of what’s best for oneself. If he has this knowledge he is successful and will be motivated to acquire the good things of life. If one fails at this, it’s because he has a learning defect and not motivated. Success would be to have the best balance of pleasure over distress and if one did do wrong it’s because he made a mistake in assuming what would bring the most pleasure. Therefore, goodness is what guarantees overall success in life by motivation with knowledge of what’s best for oneself.  
In Apology and Crito, obedience and justice, forms of morality, are displayed when Socrates choose not to escape prison. This led to the thesis that no one willingly does wrong and should be linked with the motivational thesis in order to live a good life in accordance with morality.
Taylor tells us about another theory called the Unity of the Virtues. A comparative example is the senses of a human body are distinct, for example, one may have good hearing, but poor eyesight. One may conclude the same holds true for individual virtues, one may be obedient but may be quick to judge. Plato’s Socrates doesn’t conclude this and claims all the virtues are one in the same and part of total virtue because each virtue is knowledge and knowledge led by motivation are what will apply the right conduct to a certain area of life.

Socrates was at odds with the Sophists as their views were diametrically opposed as Taylor describes it as, ‘a clash between genuine philosophy and its counterfeit’. He uses the dialogues of Gorgias, Protagoras, Euthydemus, and Republic to back his views. He tells us the word sophist originally meant sage or expert and became associated with two itinerant intellectuals Protagoras and Hippias. Plato describes Hippias as a learned man with the little capacity for following an argument and Protagoras as an intellectual, but pompous and complacent figure that gets confused when he loses an argument.
Some sophists were known to be adept at argumentative trickery such as Euthydemus and Dionysodorus. Others, such as Callias and Thrasymachus adept on attacks of morality. Plato does not put all sophist in this class, in Protagoras the sophists are teachers of life as a continuation to traditional education with a promotion of virtue and self-control, but Plato’s Socrates is bothered by the sophist disinterest of religious belief and argues that atheism leads to immorality and looks for ways to suppress it. The sophist thinking of Thrasymachus however, is of the view human nature just like other animals tend to maximize self-interest and restricting these will restrict their happiness by trying to make others happy who abide by morality. Socrates, on the other hand, believed sophist were dangerous, not because they were promoting atheism or immorality, but because they believed they were experts on how one should live. I’ll close with the take away being the purpose of philosophy is to seek the good by first acquiring knowledge of what the good is as opposed to rhetoric where the aim is to please the desire without having the knowledge of the morality of that desire.


What is your opinion on what would be the difference in not having knowledge and expressing one’s belief? Would one have to have knowledge in order to form a belief? As I was formulating this question it appears that partial knowledge would be sufficient in having a belief and having knowledge would be having the expertise. Your thoughts?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quizzes Feb 13, 15

Socrates and the Socratics, DR 10. Also recommended: LISTEN M.M. McCabe on Socratic Method

1. What was Socrates' "faith"?

2. How does Gottlieb account for Socrates' appeal to the "high society" of Athens, given his humble background and poverty?

3. What did Alcibiades see in Socrates?

4. with what request did Socrates typically commence a philosophical conversation? What was his method called?

5. Why were the defenders of Athenian democracy uneasy about Socrates?

6. In what way did the Oracle mean that Socrates was wise? Did Socrates accept the Oracle's authority at face value?

7. What was Socrates' basic motive for philosophizing?

8. Why did Socrates say it's unwise to fear death?

9. In what different ways were Socrates and Plato "unworldly"?

10. What form of life did Socrates say is not worth living? OR, Do the "authentically Socratic" dialogues usually settle on a final conclusion?
FL 13-14
11. What do religious and conspiratorial explanations have in common?

12. What was the Freemasons' Secret, according to Ben Franklin?

13. How did many Northerners account for their side's early setbacks in the Civil War?

14. Who did Mark Twain blame for "measureless harm" that reversed southern progress and led to the Civil War?


  • Do you agree with Socrates' conception of philosophy as "an intimate and collaborative activity" requiring "discussions among small groups of people"? (150) What part should reflecting and writing play in this activity?
  • Is devotion to reason accurately characterized as a form of faith? How do you define faith? Is it the same as belief?
  • How do you personally rank the importance of making money, having a comfortable home, achieving vocational or social status, helping others, ...?
  • Do you try to see beyond superficial qualities in friends and acquaintances, in assessing their attractiveness, or do you tend to judge by appearances? (If the latter, does that make you a shallow person?)
  • Must a good teacher always have some specific doctrine or factual content to teach?
  • Do you think Socrates really heard the voice of an inner "guardian spirit" or daimon? Or was he talking about what we might call the voice of conscience or reason?
  • Do you think you'd have found Socrates' arguments persuasive, if you'd been a member of his jury? (145)
  • Should everyone philosophize? Or are some just "called" to that vocation? How do Socrates and Plato differ on this point?
  • Socrates says "goodness brings wealth and every other blessing"... (148) What would he say about people who achieve wealth and success by behaving badly? (Tom Brady maybe, for instance?) What would he say about our society, and those who value money-making above all? Would he agree with Wm James regarding "success"? (See sidebar quote...)
  • How do you rank the virtues? (152)
  • What's your response to the Euthyphro question? (158)
  • What role do you think your early environment, including the music and stories you heard, played in the formation of your character? (161)
  • Was Diogenes "Socrates gone mad"? (169) Is it a mistake to accept and follow the conventions of your community? Should a philosopher flout convention and live like a dog (who's not been trained)?

...Socrates was not elitist in the normal sense. He didn’t believe that a narrow

few should only ever vote. He did, however, insist that only those who had thought about

issues rationally and deeply should be let near a vote. We have forgotten this distinction
between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birthright. We have given the vote to all without connecting it to wisdom. And Socrates knew exactly where that would lead: to a system the Greeks feared above all, demagoguery.
Ancient Athens had painful experience of demagogues, for example, the louche figure of Alcibiades,a rich, charismatic, smooth-talking wealthy man who eroded basic freedoms and helped to push Athens to its disastrous military adventures in Sicily. Socrates knew how easily people seeking election could exploit our desire for easy answers. He asked us to imagine an election debate between two candidates, one who was like a doctor and the other who was like a sweet shop owner. The sweet shop owner would say of his rival: Look, this person here has worked many evils on you. He hurts you, gives you bitter potions and tells you not to eat and drink whatever you like. He’ll never serve you feasts of many and varied pleasant things like I will. Socrates asks us to consider the audience response: Do you think the doctor would be able to reply effectively? The true answer – ‘I cause you trouble, and go against you desires in order to help you’ would cause an uproar among the voters, don’t you think? We have forgotten all about Socrates’s salient warnings against democracy. We have preferred to think of democracy as an unambiguous good – rather than as something that is only ever as effective as the education system that surrounds it. As a result, we have elected many sweet shop owners, and very few doctors.
Quiz Feb 15
The Man Who Asked Questions, LH 1; Plato, DR 11. And recommended-LISTEN Angie Hobbs on Plato on Erotic Love (PB); WATCH: Know ThyselfDiotima's Ladder: From Lust to MoralityPlato (SoL) Post your alternative quiz questions and discussion questions on the 2d half of the chapter.

1. What kind of conversation did Socrates consider a success?

2. What was wisdom, for Socrates?

3. With what Platonic theory does the parable of the cave connect?

4. In Plato's Symposium, what does Socrates say Diotima taught him about love?

5. When did Plato say humanity would see better days?

6. What nagged Plato about the academic way of life?

7. What three classes did Plato propose for his ideal republic?

8. What analogy does Socrates/Plato drawn between the parts of the city and the parts of the soul?

9. What must happen in order to bring about Plato's ideal city?

FL 15, 16
10. Who called himself a transparent eyeball?

11. What extraordinary (and false) astronomical discovery was reported and widely believed in 1835?

12. What fundamental Fantasyland mindset was exploited and illustrated by the early career of P.T. Barnum?

13. What event celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the new world featured more than a dozen temporary, disposable, full-size facsimile neoclassical buildings?

  • Is talking better than writing? (LH 4)
  • Where do you imagine you would be in the social hierarchy, if you lived in Plato's ideal republic? (LH 6)
  • Do you think Socrates did in fact "corrupt the youth"? (LH 7)
  • Do humans ever achieve or encounter perfection in any respect?
  • Do you agree with Socrates/Plato about the ladder of love?
  • Is there an important difference between practical and theoretical knowledge? Is knowledge for its own sake as valuable as knowing "how to"?
  • Does human nature mirror society, and vice versa? Can we learn how to manage one by imitating the other?
  • Was Plato right to suggest that the fate of Socrates was like that of the escaped cavedweller in his Republic? (199)

From Russell's History-
CHAPTER IX The Atomists THE founders of atomism were two, Leucippus and Democritus. It is difficult to disentangle them, because they are generally mentioned together, and apparently some of the works of Leucippus were subsequently attributed to Democritus. Leucippus, who seems to have flourished about 440 B.C., * came from Miletus, and carried on the scientific rationalist philosophy associated with that city. He was much influenced by Parmenides and Zeno. So little is known of him that Epicurus (a later follower of Democritus) was thought to have denied his existence altogether, and some moderns have revived this theory. There are, however, a number of allusions to him in Aristotle, and it seems incredible that these (which include textual quotations) would have occurred if he had been merely a myth. Democritus is a much more definite figure. He was a native of Abdera in Thrace; as for his date, he stated that he was young when Anaxagoras was old, say about 432 B.C., and he is taken to have flourished about 420 B.C. He travelled widely in southern and eastern lands in search of knowledge; he perhaps spent a considerable time in Egypt, and he certainly visited Persia. He then returned to Abdera, where he remained. Zeller calls him "superior to all earlier and contemporary philosophers in wealth of knowledge, and to most in acuteness and logical correctness of thinking." Democritus was a contemporary of Socrates and the Sophists, and should, on purely chronological grounds, be treated somewhat later in our history. The difficulty is that he is so hard to separate from Leucippus...

CHAPTER X Protagoras THE great pre-Socratic systems that we have been considering were confronted, in the latter half of the fifth century, by a sceptical movement, in which the most important figure was Protagoras, chief of the Sophists. The word "Sophist" had originally no bad connotation; it meant, as nearly as may be, what we mean by "professor." A Sophist was a man who made his living by teaching young men certain things that, it was thought, would be useful to them -73- in practical life. As there was no public provision for such education, the Sophists taught only those who had private means, or whose parents had. This tended to give them a certain class bias, which was increased by the political circumstances of the time. In Athens and many other cities, democracy was politically triumphant, but nothing had been done to diminish the wealth of those who belonged to the old aristocratic families. It was, in the main, the rich who embodied what appears to us as Hellenic culture: they had education and leisure, travel had taken the edge off their traditional prejudices, and the time that they spent in discussion sharpened their wits. What was called democracy did not touch the institution of slavery, which enabled the rich to enjoy their wealth without oppressing free citizens. In many cities, however, and especially in Athens, the poorer citizens had towards the rich a double hostility, that of envy, and that of traditionalism. The rich were supposed--often with justice--to be impious and immoral; they were subverting ancient beliefs, and probably trying to destroy democracy. It thus happened that political democracy was associated with cultural conservatism, while those who were cultural innovators tended to be political reactionaries. Somewhat the same situation exists in modern America, where Tammany, as a mainly Catholic organization, is engaged in defending traditional theological and ethical dogmas against the assaults of enlightenment. But the enlightened are politically weaker in America than they were in Athens, because they have failed to make common cause with the plutocracy. There is, however, one important and highly intellectual class which is concerned with the fence of the plutocracy, namely the class of corporation lawyers. In some respects, their functions are similar to those that were performed in Athens by the Sophists. Athenian democracy, though it had the grave limitation of not including slaves or women, was in some respects more democratic than any modern system. Judges and most executive officers were chosen by lot, and served for short periods; they were thus average citizens, like our jurymen, with the prejudices and lack of professionalism characteristic of average citizens. In general, there were a large number of judges to hear each case...

CHAPTER XI Socrates SOCRATES is a very difficult subject for the historian. There are many men concerning whom it is certain that very little is known, and other men concerning whom it is certain that a great deal is known; but in the case of Socrates the uncertainty is as to whether we know very little or a great deal. He was undoubtedly an Athenian citizen of moderate means, who spent his time in disputation, and taught philosophy to the young, but not for money, like the Sophists. He was certainly tried, condemned to death, and executed in 399 B. C., at about the age of seventy. He was unquestionably a well-known figure in Athens, since Aristophanes caricatured him in The Clouds. But beyond this point we become involved in controversy. Two of his pupils, Xenophon and Plato, wrote voluminously about him, but they said very different things. Even when they agree, it has been suggested by Burnet that Xenophon is copying Plato. Where they disagree, some believe the one, some the other, some neither. In such a dangerous dispute, I shall not venture to take sides, but I will set out briefly the various points of view. Let us begin with Xenophon, a military man, not very liberally endowed with brains, and on the whole conventional in his outlook. Xenophon is pained that Socrates should have been accused of impiety and of corrupting the youth; he contends that, on the contrary, Socrates was eminently pious and had a thoroughly wholesome effect upon those who came under his influence. His ideas, it appears, so -82- far from being subversive, were rather dull and commonplace. This defence goes too far, since it leaves the hostility to Socrates unexplained. As Burnet says ( Thales to Plato, p. 149): "Xenophon's defence of Socrates is too successful. He would never have been put to death if he had been like that." There has been a tendency to think that everything Xenophon says must be true, because he had not the wits to think of anything untrue. This is a very invalid line of argument. A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand. I would rather be reported by my bitterest enemy among philosophers than by a friend innocent of philosophy. We cannot therefore accept what Xenophon says if it either involves any difficult point in philosophy or is part of an argument to prove that Socrates was unjustly condemned. Nevertheless, some of Xenophon's reminiscences are very convincing. He tells (as Plato also does) how Socrates was continually occupied with the problem of getting competent men into positions of power. He would ask such questions as: "If I wanted a shoe mended, whom should I employ?" To which some ingenuous youth would answer: "A shoemaker, O Socrates." He would go on to carpenters, coppersmiths, etc., and finally ask some such question as "who should mend the Ship of State?" When he fell into conflict with the Thirty Tyrants, Critias, their chief, who knew his ways from having studied under him, forbade him to continue teaching the young, and added: "You had better be done with your shoemakers, carpenters, and coppersmiths. These must be pretty well trodden out at heel by this time, considering the circulation you have given them" ( Xenophon, Memorabilia, Bk. I, Chap. II). This happened during the brief oligarchic government established by the Spartans at the end of the Peloponnesian War. But at most times Athens was democratic, so much so that even generals were elected or chosen by lot. Socrates came across a young man who wished to become a general, and persuaded him that it would be well to know something of the art of war. The young man accordingly went away and took a brief course in tactics. When he returned, Socrates, after some satirical praise, sent him back for further instruction (ib. Bk. III, Chap I). Another young man he set to learning the principles of -83- finance. He tried the same sort of plan on many people, including the war minister; but it was decided that it was easier to silence him by means of the hemlock than to cure the evils of which he complained. With Plato's account of Socrates, the difficulty is quite a different one from what it is in the case of Xenophon, namely, that it is very hard to judge how far Plato means to portray the historical Socrates, and how far he intends the person called "Socrates" in his dialogues to be merely the mouthpiece of his own opinions. Plato, in addition to being a philosopher, is an imaginative writer of great genius and charm. No one supposes, and he himself does not seriously pretend, that the conversations in his dialogues took place just as he records them. Nevertheless, at any rate in the earlier dialogues, the conversation is completely natural and the characters quite convincing. It is the excellence of Plato as a writer of fiction that throws doubt on him as a historian. His Socrates is a consistent and extraordinarily interesting character, far beyond the power of most men to invent; but I think Platocould have invented him. Whether he did so is of course another question... (continues)
An old post-

Socrates & Plato

Western philosophy began well before Socrates, but we'll leave the pre-Socratics to themselves for now and pretend that Socrates was indeed the first (western) philosopher. We'll also soft-pedal Bertrand Russell's judgment (later shared by Izzy Stone) that the Platonic Socrates is "dishonest and sophistical in argument... smug and unctuous... not scientific in his thinking... [guilty of] treachery to truth" and so on. If the esteemed Socrates-as-paragon and personification of intellectual integrity ("I'd rather die than give up my philosophy" etc.) didn't exist we'd have had to invent him. Perhaps Plato did.

In the southern part of Europe is a little country called Greece… the Greeks have lived in it for more than three thousand years. In olden times they believed that before they came to the land it was the home of the gods, and they used to tell wonderful stories

And then Socrates came along to challenge some of those stories. (There actually were some important pre-Socratics like Thales and Democritus already challenging what everybody knew, but we’re jumping ahead in our Little History.) And that’s why, from a western philosopher’s point of view, the Greeks matter.

The old Parthenon must have been lovely, but I think ours is prettier nowadays. And btw, our Parthenon's city ("The Athens of the South") is hot (as in cool) lately.

[There's a new theory about the old Parthenon, btw. "Horses and riders, youths and elders, men and women, animals being led to sacrifice: What is the Parthenon’s frieze telling us?"... more]

Socrates, from Alopece, near Athens, asked a lot of questions. Like Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna. Like Bertrand Russell:

Bertrand Russell ‏@B_RussellQuotesJan 31
In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

Did curiosity kill the philosopher? No, a narrow plurality of 500 jurors did. (His unrepentant attitude during sentencing didn't help, either.) They convicted him of "impiety" (atheism) and corrupting the youth of Athens. One more reason I'm lucky to live in the 21st century: I don't like hemlock. I'm like Woody Allen, that way. (But if shocking new allegations are true, hemlock may be too good for him.) Steve Martin (did I mention that he was a philosophy major?) had a go at it too. Here's a good Discussion Question: what would you do, in Socrates' cell?

He was “snub-nosed, podgy, shabby and a bit strange,” says our text. "He was ugly," says podcastee Mary McCabe. But brilliant and charismatic too, as gadflies go. Said he had nothing to teach, but those around him (including young Plato) said they learned plenty from him, especially how
to discuss with others in this open-minded, open-ended way that allows them to reflect on what they think and us to reflect on what we think, without dictating, without dogma, without insistence, and without imperative... to be true to themselves: to be sincere about their beliefs and to be honest... and to have some respect for their companion. If that's not good teaching, what is? 

The annotated and hyperlinked Last Days of Socrates is a gripping and inspiring tale, whether or not its hero was really as heroic through all the days of his life as Plato and his other admirers would have us believe. The honored pedestal version of this gadfly remains a worthy ideal for philosophy.

"Plato, they say, could stick it away..." -they being Monty Python. And the late great Hitch sang it too, sorta. But Plato was a serious and sober fellow, in Reality, usually capitalizing that word to distinguish it from mere appearance. The everyday world is not at all what it appears to be, he said. If you want Truth and Reality and the Good, get out of your cave and go behold the Forms. He seemed to think that’s what his hero Socrates had done. I’m not so sure. But read the relevant Platonic dialogues telling the tragic and inspiring story of the last days of Socrates and see what you think.

He also had interesting thoughts about love and eros, as expressed through his constant dialogue character "Socrates" (who may or may not have spoken faithfully for his martyred namesake) in SymposiumAngie Hobbs says Plato rejected Aristophanes' mythic notion that we all have one unique other "half," formerly parts of our hermaphroditic spherical selves, that would complete us and make us happy. But he defended a view some of us find equally implausible, the idea that the true and highest love spurns (or spins upward from) particular persons and embraces the Form of Beauty.

The Form of Beauty "is always going to be there for you," but on the other hand "it's never going to love you back." Unrequited affection is hardly what most of us think of as Perfect Love. There's a myth for you. This really was an early foreshadowing of the phenomenon recently deplored in the Stone, our modern turn to abstraction and virtual experience in lieu of immediacy and reality and touch. ("Losing Our Touch", nyt). Reminds me, too, of Rebecca Goldstein's Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away.

We romantics (as Angie Hobbs pronounces herself, and as I confess to being too) should know better than to seek a perfect match. We should know better than to think that any enduring relationship can be wholly free of "pain, fragility, and transience." Those are inevitable parts of the story and the glory of human (as against Ideal, Platonic, Perfect) love, no? Just ask Cecil the Butler about Sidney Poitier. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Immanuel Kant Presentation

1. Where was he born?
Konigsberg, Prussia
2. How old was he when he began college?
3. What was his major?
4. What did he get his doctorate degree in?
5. What was the name of his best selling book?
The Critique of Pure Reason
6. What were his last words?
"Es ist gut"  or it is good

Discussion Questions:
1. If you had the opportunity to redo K-12 grades, would you skip any and try to start college at the age of 16?
2. Would you consider yourself a supporter of Kant or against him?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Thoreau on Knowing vs. Seeing and What It Takes to Apprehend Reality Unblinded by Our Preconceptions

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”

“No really creative transformation can possibly be effected by human beings,” physicist David Bohm wrote in examining the nature of creativity“unless they are in the creative state of mind that is generally sensitive to the differences that always exist between the observed fact and any preconceived ideas, however noble, beautiful, and magnificent they may seem to be.” And yet, stranded in the purgatory between objective and subjective reality, we are often too blinded by our preconceptions to receive facts as we encounter them, the raw material of reality — something Galileo considered the greatest enemy of critical thinking as he was launching his epoch-making crusade against delusion.
Perched in time between Galileo and Bohm is an improbable kindred spirit: Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862), who contemplates what it takes to shift from knowing to seeing, from prejudgment-primed interpretation to apprehension of pure reality, in a passage from The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837–1861 (public library) — a book I continue to consider an existential Bible of secular scripture, replete with the great transcendentalist philosopher and poet’s wisdom on the myth of productivitythe greatest gift of growing oldthe sacredness of public librariesthe creative benefits of keeping a diary, and the only worthwhile definition of success.
In a journal entry from the thick of winter in 1860, just before he became bedridden with what would be his final illness, the forty-three-year-old Thoreau writes:
A man receives only what he is ready to receive… We hear and apprehend only what we already half know. If there is something which does not concern me, which is out of my line, which by experience or by genius my attention is not drawn to, however novel and remarkable it may be, if it is spoken we hear it not, if it is written, we read it not, or if we read it, it does not detain us. Every man thus tracks himself through life, in all his hearing and reading and observation and traveling. His observations make a chain. The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest which he has observed, he does not observe. By and by we may be ready to receive what we cannot receive now.
Complement this particular portion of the endlessly rewarding Journal of Henry David Thoreau with Hegel on the peril of fixed opinions and electromagnetism pioneer Michael Faraday on curing our propensity for self-deception, then revisit Thoreau on the difference between an artisan, an artist, and a geniusthe spiritual rewards of winter walks, and how to use civil disobedience to advance justice.