Essay / Philosophy

A Marathon through Plato III

Republic IWe are now down to the core group of about twenty. The room is much cooler now. The group is getting a second wind after the hard labor of trying to see the meaning of the cosmos.And so we start with Socrates and Glaucon going down to the Piraeus.If the servant had not stopped Socrates, the two of them would have gotten out safely. There is a degree of violence here.When Socrates turns around, it is what is done in the Cave when the prisoner is freed.Glaucon is the one who speaks. Why does Glaucon say this when they are leaving together? He does this again when Glaucon quickly agrees that they cannot be persuade if they will not listen.Glaucon is young and he seems to want to see the sights of the city. He also sees his brother. However, this friend of Socrates becomes tyrannical and demands they stay. This might be the way of the young when faced with temptations. Glaucon believes he can have philosophy and torch races. Socrates agrees, using the language of the law courts.We often miss the fact that Republic begins with an act of piety on the part of Socrates. He goes down to pay his respect to the goddess. He is forced to stay for the sights of the town. Where has the piety gone? The dialogue is motivated by a failure of piety on the part of Glaucon.Socrates and Glaucon appear to have gone down for the same reason. Socrates is fulfilling his duty to the City and to the law. He also sees some sights. Glaucon, it seems to me, is mostly interested in the sights. After doing his duty, Socrates (with Glaucon) is hastening home, but the moment there is a chance for more spectacle, Glaucon splits with Socrates and stays. In the end, there seems to be no “reason” for this. Glaucon acts without reason.Polemarchus seems to be exercising authority. (His name means War Leader or Chief.) Glaucon has a heart for the Piraeus. Socrates must not merely persuade Glaucon to leave. He must acknowledge who Glaucon is and go with him back to the Piraeus. There Socrates hopes to heal Glaucon of his wounds. Glaucon is suffering from a pure case of spiritedness.This also points to the impotence of reason in the city. Reason cannot command, it can only persuade. We wish that Reason were powerful, but it is not.We now need to ask what persuades a man. Reason seems to be part of the World of Being. Reason is impotent in the face of passion, but persuasion can help get control. Persuasion is the art of the World of Becoming.There are (perhaps) three kinds of assent. First, there is Glaucon moving up in a spirited way. Second, there is an assent for good reasons. Third, there is an assent for bad reasons.If we really hear the truth can we doubt it?Like Oedipus, don’t we hear the truth, even a hard truth, and deep inside we know it to be true.Even if God gives us the Truth, do we know how to receive it?

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