24.8.09

Plato Said, I Say

Plato, Book VI, Republic:

Let's agree that philosophic natures always love the sort of learning that makes clear to them some feature of the being that always is and does not wander around between coming to be and decaying. (485a-b)

Me: No.

12 comments:

Wishydig said...

ok. so you're saying that philosophic natures are not characterized by that love? or you're saying that they're wrong to love that sort of learning? or that philosophic natures don't exist? or that they love pursuing that learning but that it never makes the feature of that being clear to them?

or that you just want to say 'no' because it marks the point when you've stopped interacting?

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Yes.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

No, seriously, I am simply rejecting that the idea that knowlegde has to be ["always"]. There's other ways to think about thinking in less certain and objective terms.

Insignificant Wrangler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wishydig said...

then i think you're rejecting something outside his question.

if i were to guess what socrates would say to your suggestion, it would go something like this:

"good. i agree that there are those who do not search for the same. we shall let them have fun arguing about shadows. meanwhile -- let's keep walking."

Casey said...

Yeah!

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Michael--but that assumes that knowledge has to be "lighted" as Socrates sees it. There are other epistemological considerations, even in his own era (Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, Isocrates). The contest here, as I pointed to above, is that there's serious institutional/intellectual capital wrapped up in who controls the signified behind "philosophic." Never mind the 19th and 20th century battles over whether grabbing "light," in the objective sense Plato articulates, is possible.

And I would also point out that Plato's (Socrates'?) disdain for the transient divorces his particular epistemological-institutional orientation toward truth and knowledge from public matters. Of course, a cursory view of history would suggest that the progression of logos required segregation from the public sphere (I am particularly thankful to Plato and Kant for their contributions to creating intellectual sandboxes to develop Western philosophy). But as a rhetorician, I feel pretty safe arguing that today's social context (specifically, the attitudes/conditions/expectations/etc toward learning in the public sphere) is quite different than it was for Plato or Kant.

Wishydig said...

but that assumes that knowledge has to be "lighted" as Socrates sees it.

--

no it doesn't. it only assumes that socrates values that pursuit and has faith in his assurance.

you seem eager to claim that socrates shouldn't use certain terms in certain ways.

labels are not definitions. nor do labels limit the claims that are available to those who are not labelled a certain way.

cultural capital isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Wishydig said...

(and i think it's worth adding that socrates' question doesn't even allow the statement of evaluation of types of knowledge. just a category.)

Insignificant Wrangler said...

@Michael... The basis of Socratic dialectic (and its underlying ontological approach) is rooted in the idea that labels are definitions. That is precisely what he does. And Socrates' methods for "exacting" language are exclusionary.

Sure, this passage alone might not exclude other forms of knowledge ("the sort of learning"), but it does intend to state that philosophic natures love ONLY the sort of learning. If you love any other form of learning, then you are not philosophic.

In the cultural context of Plato's day, there was serious intellectual, political, social, and economic ramifications/rewards surrounding the title of "philosophic." Much was at stake. And that "meaningless cultural capital" influenced the next 3000 years of Western civilization. It is not coincidental that Plato's _Republic_, which through the next few centuries of history won the "philosophic" arm wrestling match, provides the basis for the institution laid out in Kant's Conflict of the Faculties.

you seem eager to claim that socrates shouldn't use certain terms in certain ways.

labels are not definitions. nor do labels limit the claims that are available to those who are not labelled a certain way.

cultural capital isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Wishydig said...

"If you love any other form of learning, then you are not philosophic."

i think you've finally answered the question driving my first comment. it's the last one option. you're simply unwilling to participate.

the dialog asks for you to agree on a term, and you glibly refuse, begging him to merely use a term other than 'philosophic' -- as if another term would somehow disable the conclusions to follow.

if the argument for philosophic natures is to lead to a banishment of non-philosophic natures, it makes no difference that he's calling them philosophic. let's say that you were to hold doggedly to your argument that "philosophic natures" love other types of learning -- even if you eventually get that label expanded to include other natures, the same path to privilege one type of learning over another is available. the label really is not the issue.

if you wish to change the terminal of the argument you have to wait a while till the argument gets to the point where that type of learning -- regardless of label -- is argued to be entitled to some privilege. arguing for a new label accomplishes nothing except by distraction.

at best you'd get "fine. philosophic natures are varied. but let's agree that philosophic-type-a natures love the sort of learning that makes clear to them that..."

Casey said...

That's why I suggested something like "Group P" rather than the word "Philosophic."

For some reason, Wrangler is really attached to the word "Philosophic"... but I've emphasized that the word doesn't matter to me, nor would it to Socrates.

All that matters to me is a very unobjectionable fact: that the ONLY kind of learning I'm interested in is the kind of learning Socrates described... and that there are others like me.

And "we," that group of me and people like me, who ONLY want that kind of learning... need to be called SOMETHING. You don't want us to be called "philosophers," but that's fine with us.

We just want you to recognize that we exist... and then, as Wishydig said, if you want to learn more about our little group, keep walking with me and we'll talk about what my little group likes to study and how we study it. If you aren't interested in what my little group thinks about, then, no hard feelings. Have a good day.

BTW: Wrangler, you overstate the importance of the term "philosopher," at least in Socrates' day. The Athenians fell as a political power after Pericles lost to the Spartans... Socrates had no political power (was a subject in an empire, effectively), as demonstrated by his eventual bullshit execution. "Philosopher," in the days of Socrates, was hardly a label of power.

If anything, being a "philosopher" in the time of Socrates was like being a "Christian" one generation after Jesus...

A passage from the introduction to my 1963 Plato, on the Theaetetus:

"In this dialogue three persons discuss what knowledge is: Socrates, Theodorus, an old man and a distinguished mathematician, and his pupil, the young Theaetetus, who is a charming lad, modest, well-mannered, and quick of apprehension. When Socrates says he suspects him of being very intelligent, he answers that that is by no means true; he only wants to know. 'But,' Socrates says, 'you then are truly philosophical, for philosophy begins in wonder.' "

With Theaetetus as one of the few who earns explicit and unqualified praise from Socrates, we have a model of what Socrates was looking for... it seems pretty modest. Hardly tyrannical or exclusionary.

Take a term like "New Ager" right now. Let's say I want a definition of that term. And I say "New Agers are people who believe in preternatural influences like astrology, Mayan calendars, and alchemy." Now that's a definition. It's not exclusionary. You don't have to believe any of that stuff, or "ONLY" be interested in that stuff. But that's what New Agers are interested in.

THEN... if a thousand years go by and it turns out that New Agers have a huge influence on history, that'll be interesting. But it won't be because New Agers were exclusionary. That's what "Philosophic natures" were in Socrates' time.

That's as clear as I can make this point.