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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Oct 13, 2007 at 01:53:55 AM EST) Reading, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Dialogues of Plato". Me. Web.

What I'm Reading
Read most of a selection of the Socratic dialogues: The Dialogues of Plato. Contains Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium and some extracts from the Republic. Not sure whether to read the Republic bits or leave it and read the whole thing some other time.

Pretty interesting stuff, though the overall picture is pretty familiar from second-hand reading. The ideas are very lucidly expressed, though you have to keep quite a bit in memory to follow the more complicated arguments.

It's interesting how religious the Phaedo seems. It definitely seems to me to prefigure Christianity, with the noble teacher willingly embracing death in order to fulfill his beliefs, leaving followers with a hope of how to lead better lives. The specific arguments in favour of the immortality of the soul don't really seem particularly convincing to me though: they may follow logically from Platonic idealism, but if you don't accept that then the arguments don't really work.

I did find myself thinking, "that's all very well, but what about X," only to find the interlocuters raising argument X later on, several times. While I was thinking in terms of the soul as the software running on the body's hardware, they raise the same distinction with the soul being the harmony emerging from the body's lyre; and therefore the soul being unable to survive the body's destruction.

I'd say all these dialogues are worth reading. Phaedo is probably the one to read of any, since it describes the death of Socrates. Symposium is a bit long-winded, but seems to most dramatic: it has various guests at a dinner party discoursing on Love. The Apology is Socrates trial defence. Crito is where Socrates explains why he'd rather submit to death than flee.

My grandmother's not well. Has a serious problem: they're waiting for test results to come back next week. Just heard a few minutes ago that they reckon she's just got a few weeks left. Not sure whether to go down and visit her now, or go down next weekend. Mum and Dad will be there this weekend, so next might be better.

Work is busy: gradually getting on top of things. The problem now is that there's so many different things to do. After so many rounds of redundancies we only basically have one person who understands each system, and when I complain the CTO just says we don't have resources to train more than one person. So while I'm supposed to be working on super-high-priority system A, I also have to simultaneously launch B,C and D because they're all interdependent and nobody else knows anything about them.

Video: Unsubscribe Me: Amnesty anti-torture campaign. Inside an engine.

VoxEU New service sector jobs still geographically concentrated, expected to change.

So what did we learn from the Mary Rose? Construction, armament, boring artefact database.

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Platonic Socrates & Socrates as Protochristian by lm (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Oct 13, 2007 at 05:54:55 AM EST
With the exception of extracts of the Republic, all of those dialogues are thought to be Plato's ``early'' work that is more likely to have represented Socrates as he was rather than a mouthpiece for Plato's views. If you do read the Republic, you'll notice a large difference in Socrates' tone, style and the content of his thoughts because by the time of the Republic, he's become almost a complete construction of Plato's rather than having anything to do with the historical Socrates. The transformation becomes complete in The Laws where Plato no longer ever refers to Socrates but to An Athenian Stranger.

I also recommend Xenophon's Apology for an slightly different slant on Socrates' defense. Xenophon begins his account with an explanation of why he is writing when so many others have already put the story to paper.

It seems to me worthy to write this to remind everyone how, after being shut away by the law, Socrates deliberated about both his defense and the end of his life. On the hand, others have written on this and all them have praised his eloquent words, which makes manifest that they were proclaim truly what Socrates said. But that Socrates himself saw death as more desirable than life, this was not explained so that his eloquent words seemed very silly.

Xenophon goes on to say that, additionally, Socrates was very old and it was much more pleasing for him to die in his homeland, surrounded by true friends rather than face the slow, harsh decline into old age.

But I do agree that elements of Socratic thinking do seem to prefigure Christianity. So much so that some early Christians referred to Socrates as a Protochristian. The second century Saint Justin the Martyr picked him out as an example of Pagans coming to see the truth before the advent of Christ. And every now and then you'll find an icon of Socrates in Greek churches complete with a halo.

That said there are some pretty key differences, some of which are very easy to gloss over because the formative language of the Christians was Platonic. For example, Socrates seems to have thought that the soul was eternal in both directions while Christianity holds that souls have a finite beginning and will only be eternal going forward. As another example, Socrates seems to have thought that the body was a hindrance to the soul where Christianity teaches that the soul is not complete without the body. (Christianity believes to a bodily resurrection where soul and body are eternally re-united after the last day.) Another important one is that for Socrates, truth is eternal and abstract while for Christians, truth is eternal and personal.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Sorry to hear about your Gran by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 11:51:46 PM EST

It's political correctness gone mad!

Go now and then next week as well. by Tonatiuh (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 04:08:12 PM EST
And the week after that if you possibly can :-(

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