Category Archive 'Plato'
02 May 2016
Plato, copy of a bust by Silanion, Musei Capitolini.
Andrew Sullivan is back, in New York magazine, telling us that the current election reminds him of something.
As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Platoâ€™s Republic. It has unsettled â€” even surprised â€” me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that â€œtyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.â€ What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like â€œa many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.â€
This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed â€” with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do â€œwhatever one wants,â€ you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.
The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: â€œWe almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.â€ Family hierarchies are inverted: â€œA father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.â€ In classrooms, â€œas the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.â€ Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.
And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.
He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time â€” given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracyâ€™s civil religion. He makes his move by â€œtaking over a particularly obedient mobâ€ and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class â€” and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. Itâ€™s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracyâ€™s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excessâ€”â€œtoo much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slaveryâ€ â€” and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.
Trump definitely scares Andrew.
20 Apr 2016
That skunk Heidegger
From Scientific Philospher (who mentions 30, but only list 10 and offers no link, but I found them at Flavorwire).
Bertrand Russell on Aristotle
â€œI do not agree with Plato, but if anything could make me do so, it would be Aristotleâ€™s arguments against him.â€
Jean-Paul Sartre on Albert Camus
â€œCamusâ€¦ a mix of melancholy, conceit and vulnerability on your part has always deterred people from telling you unvarnished truths. The result is that you have fallen prey to a gloomy immoderation that conceals your inner difficulties and which you refer to, I believe, as Mediterranean moderation. Sooner or later, someone would have told you this, so it might as well be me.â€
Camille Paglia on Michel Foucault
â€œThe truth is that Foucault knew very little about anything before the seventeenth century and, in the modern world, outside France. His familiarity with the literature and art of any period was negligible. His hostility to psychology made him incompetent to deal with sexuality, his own or anybody elseâ€™s. â€¦ The more you know, the less you are impressed by Foucault.â€ …
Bertrand Russell on Georg Hegel
â€œHegelâ€™s philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get sane men to accept it, but he did. He set it out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.â€
Noam Chomsky on Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek
â€œThereâ€™s no â€˜theoryâ€™ in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to findâ€¦ some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a 12-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I canâ€™t. So Iâ€™m not interested in that kind of posturing. Å½iÅ¾ek is an extreme example of it. I donâ€™t see anything to what heâ€™s saying.â€
Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek on Noam Chomsky
â€œWell, with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, myâ€¦ point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurateâ€¦ well, I donâ€™t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong.â€
Karl Popper on Ludwig Wittgenstein
â€œNot to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.â€ (On being challenged by a poker-wielding Wittgenstein to produce an example of a moral rule; the discussion degenerated quickly from there.)
Karl Popper on Martin Heidegger
â€œI appeal to the philosophers of all countries to unite and never again mention Heidegger or talk to another philosopher who defends Heidegger. This man was a devil. I mean, he behaved like a devil to his beloved teacher, and he has a devilish influence on Germanyâ€¦ One has to read Heidegger in the original to see what a swindler he was.â€
Arthur Schopenhauer on Georg Hegel
â€œHegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.â€
20 May 2015
Antoninus Pius AE32 Orichalcum Sestertius, 138-161 A.D.
Gleaming cast metal called orichalcum, which was said by Ancient Greeks to be found in Atlantis, has been recovered from a ship that sunk 2,600 years ago off the coast of Sicily.
The lumps of metal were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily, possibly coming from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship that was carrying them was likely caught in a storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port.
“The wreck dates to the first half of the sixth century,” Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily’s superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News. “It was found about 1,000 feet from Gela’s coast at a depth of 10 feet.”
He noted that the 39 ingots found on the sandy sea floor represent a unique finding.
“Nothing similar has ever been found,” Tusa said. “We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.”
Indeed orichalcum has long been considered a mysterious metal, its composition and origin widely debated.
According to the ancient Greeks, it was invented by Cadmus, a Greek-Phoenician mythological character. The fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Plato made orichalcum a legendary metal when he mentioned it in the Critias dialogue.
Describing Atlantis as flashing “with the red light of orichalcum,” he wrote that the metal, second only in value to gold, was mined in the mythical island and was used to cover Poseidon’s temple interior walls, columns and floors.
Today most scholars agree orichalcum is a brass-like alloy, which was made in antiquity by cementation. This process was achieved with the reaction of zinc ore, charcoal and copper metal in a crucible.
Analyzed with X-ray fluorescence by Dario Panetta, of TQ – Tecnologies for Quality, the 39 ingots turned to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 15-20 percent zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron.
Via Fred Lapides.