Essay / Philosophy

A Marathon through Plato VI

It is evening. The vesper prayers are said. How can one honor a teacher like Dr. Geier? Who can know? Now comes the long haul as we examine the Good.How would we honor a great man if he came into the room?The Good is much greater to be honored than knowledge and truth. Why is this the case? What is so good about the good? It is hard to think about how we could possibly honor the good?509 “An inconceivable beauty you speak of,” he said, “if is the source of knowledge and truth, and yet itself surpasses them in beauty. For you surely cannot mean that it is pleasure.”Why does Glaucon make this spirited reply? Socrates says “Hush.” It is a statement that is connected to piety. Why? Is it because for Glaucon to say more would be impious? Or has he already committed an impiety even by connection the good to pleasure?509A4 What about the word (transliterated) “agathoeidei”? It is used only by Plato. It is translated (Shorey) boniform. That seems clumsy. Why a new word? How about good-ish? However, that removes the sense of “form” from the word.M. Schubert suggests, and I agree, that Glaucon is not associating the good with pleasure. However, this seems hard for him. She asks, “Is Glaucon saying: ‘then it is not pleasing.'”The Good is beyond “being” in rank and power. It is beyond “being” in every way. This seems hard to understand if we use our intellect to question. What if we use our intellect to look at it?I may have limited “inquiry” too much. Usually, I think of being skeptical. What if part of inquiring is just looking at a thing. When I stand before the New Testament, the written Word of God, don’t I feel small? Should I “tear it apart” or should I stand humbly? There is a place for knowing that goes beyond or is not exhausted by the tearing apart of skepticism. Socrates, “you inquire” must not be limited to a challenge to conventional statements. It may also be a following them out to their natural (good?) ends on the assumption that they are true.This is a challenge to much of modern philosophy. We may have privileged one form of reason over another. This is part of the epistemology of belief that Plato argued for in the Timaeus. Some things are true. We know them to be true. (“There is a good.”) Tearing them apart is useless, moving ahead with them is crucial. We don’t have to cultivate doubts we don’t really have. (Dangerous? Certainly not philosophically correct in today’s academy. Doesn’t dogmatism in the bad sense lurk near these concepts?)At 509C, Glaucon ejaculates again (my translation): “And Glaucon very jokingly said, ‘Apollo!’ he said ‘demonic hyperbole can go no further.'” Glaucon, like Peter in the New Testament, seems always to be bursting out with these statements. Does this one mean anything?Now we stand at the Cave Analogy at the start VII. As always, I fear the dazzling impact of this analogy on all of us.However, far from being dazzled Glaucon at 516C and other places is calmed by the analogy. Glaucon is like the young child who must be distracted in order to learn. Certain needs must be sated in him (and are sated by the dazzling story) which allows him to calm down.The quotation of Achilles in hell (Odyssey) is meaningful. Glaucon would do anything at this point rather than stay “down.” He has improved from Book I when he wanted to stay down in the Piraeus. He now understand why he might want to lead the place of mere spectacle.The Cave is a dark place. The fire is not enough, but is the light we are used to having. Our fear of losing what we have can keep us from the thing we should have. The loss of their “sight” leaves them (literally!) in aporia.Here we are at 10:30 in what, at least for me, is a “sticking place.” Few are speaking and many are listening. Are folk expressing their views of the text or merely speaking? It is hard to tell, but we shall press on to see what will come of it all. One of the nicest things about this discussion is that I am not in charge. I should note Dr. Geier has a willingness to let the discussion unfold as it must. Part of this comes from having more time. There is a great deal to be said for a ten hour class!We are still discussing the image. The nature of education, the good, and the sun are all topics. Slow progress, if any. God help us. The ultimate sight would be to see without an image. We must strain over time to see the Good without any intermediate image.What about the long road to education? Why is there some reluctance on the part of even Socrates for this trip? We follow the logos wherever it takes us. We are not sure that there is definite end, but what else can we do.The dialectic in pursuit of the Good, Truth, and Beauty seems so much better, truth-like, and beautiful that even if I questioned the existence of these things I would pursue it. But could I do this if I wanted the truth? Yes, because if there is no Good, then there is no truth either. If the Good is not there to be found, then there is no good reason to think any Truth is there either. So for the love of the truth, I pursue the Truth.We are down to a dozen students. There was some discussion by students at 11:30 that too few are here to proceed. This is difficult. What should be done? Some students wanted to turn to less interesting topics, such as Atlantis, to continue the discussion without leaving out some from the good stuff. The rest of the community wanted to proceed with the difficult notion of the Third Kind. I am energized by this prospect.We have decided to press forward to the study of the Third Kind in Timaeus. This section of text begins with an “archei” (like John) or new beginning. This beginning (48) is not a start in time, but a basis for dealing with “what has come up.” The old account that started with “being and becoming” is no longer adequate.This Third Kind is obscure and vague. It is a “receptacle” It is the nurse of all Becoming. All generation takes place here. Nothing in the receptacle has stability. Nothing stays there or Becoming would stop. Images are concrete things.It seems to me that this Third Kind will allow for “falling short” of Reason in the World of Becoming. The first creation story has accounted for rational motion. This Third Kind makes possible irrational motion.The Third Kind is called “that Wherein it becomes and the source Wherefrom the Becoming copied and produced.” This is yet another name for the Third Kind. Why? A chief criticism of “Platonism” is that there is no mechanism for the “imitation of the Forms” in the natural world. At 50C, Timaeus promises to explore this issue. Either he does so at 53C or as Dr. Geier suggests he never gets to it.This second creation account is not naturalistic as some suggest. Instead, it is different. It solves different problems and creates new ones. The “mother and father” language that is coming means that this is not some sort of proto-naturalistic account. Eventually the Third Kind is called a Mother. The source is called a Father. They have an “offspring” (not a child). It exists between Mother and Father. It has an inheritance that neither parent gives it.The Third Kind is a blank. The things printed on it do not remain on it. It has a new kind of Being, though it makes Becoming possible.Tomorrow is another day. This is a good thing, but my body calls for sleep.

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