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Peter Worman



Joined: 04 Jul 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Durban, South Africa

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:46 pm    Post subject: The Republic Reply with quote

Greetings all,

Our small Plato Group here in DBN is studying the above and we have just completed Book 3. In this book education of the Guardians is discussed and the first point made is what is acceptable for these young Guardians to read and hear about. A long debate unfolds quoting passages from Homer among others which I haven't read and so I was left with the feeling that I had missed something. Do you recommend that one reads up on the literature of the day?

Another difficulty discovered was Socrates mention of the style used by authors and we were not sure if we fully understood what he termed narration and imitation and their merits or otherwise.

Lastly, if Socrates lived with us now, where we have TV, films and many other forms of communication, what do you think would be allowed to be watched and listened to by the future leaders of our commonwealth.

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Peter Worman
School of Philosophy
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Posts: 1105
Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Peter,

It’s very good to hear from you again.

By the way, what translation are you using?

My response to your first question is - how can you resist reading Homer? It’s the very best of literature, and whatever you put into reading it, it repays manifold.

It always amuses me that while protesting about his grisly representations of the gods, etc. Socrates never misses the opportunity of quoting from Homer; and some of the harrowing moments in the Myth of Er at the end of Republic are quite the equal of anything Homer hurls at us.

Of course, Socrates is talking of the education of the young and he doesn’t want a negative view of the gods and their heroes to encroach the mind in formation. However I believe we must remember that Socrates is always close to irony. Note that at 378a he allows that certain adults ‘under an oath of secrecy’ may be allowed to read the original Homeric texts as long as they made the ‘requisite sacrifice’ - though it were best that nothing be said about it! He then makes an important but open-to-question statement about children not being able to understand allegory. So he is not criticising Homer per se, only in children and youths reading him unedited. We might think the same of certain modern literature.

If you find you have no time for reading the whole of Homer, I think at least you should chase up the quotes. Most publications contain exact references, but if you do not have these, I can easily provide them.

By the way, your group might find it useful to take a forward step in your reading to 595a – 608b, where he tackles the theme of poetry again.

Quote:
<<Another difficulty discovered was Socrates mention of the style used by authors and we were not sure if we fully understood what he termed narration and imitation and their merits or otherwise. >>


He is not comparing drama and epic poetry here, but simply the device of speaking in the first or third person. Greek children were taught to wave their arms dramatically when acting out a part (though how they still managed to hold their masks up at the same time is not explained!) Apparently Plato didn’t want his Guardians to ‘undergo personality changes’ even when they knew they playing a part. They were to remain centred in themselves rather than imitate others, especially ‘questionable types’. Again, one can see the philosophic sense in this, but I doubt whether such strictures would remain once the personality was fully formed. If it did, one might think the training rather frail. In Laws, his practical rather than ideal society, he even allowed for ‘young men’s drinking parties’ to train the young guardians to remain self-possessed even in the presence of revelry.

Quote:
<<Lastly, if Socrates lived with us now, where we have TV, films and many other forms of communication, what do you think would be allowed to be watched and listened to by the future leaders of our commonwealth.>>

Do you mean, what would Socrates allow? This is an interesting but surprising difficult question. Let me cogitate on it for a day or two.

I repeat, it’s good to hear from you. Tell me a little about your group.
Regards, Pete
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Peter Worman



Joined: 04 Jul 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Durban, South Africa

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Day Pete

Thanks for the reply. We've been using a so-called Jowatt translation that I download from a site called Classic Archives as it's easier to copy then from my old set of books. But we have picked up typos/ inaccuracies so have reverted to the book.

There are only four of us in our group currently but the level of conversation is inspiring and we will hopefully have some new members in the new term.

I'll keep you posted on our progress and will probably revert with more questions and also look forward to hearing your deliberations. Great to hear from you as well and to be back in the mix.

Fondest Regards,

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Peter Worman
School of Philosophy
DURBAN
South Africa
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Posts: 1105
Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope you manage to keep your group going, Peter.

You wrote:

Quote:
Lastly, if Socrates lived with us now, where we have TV, films and many other forms of communication, what do you think would be allowed to be watched and listened to by the future leaders of our commonwealth.


And I promised a reply.

It's strange but questions like this are the most difficult to answer convincingly.

For me, the high water marks between the fall of the Greeks and where we are today might be lost on them. Mozart's Jupiter symphony with its final seven part fugue would undoubtedly sound like a cacophony to the refines ears of a culture that used harmony very sparingly; a Shakespeare play might also strike the Greeks as containing much superfluous verbosity, especially as they were used to the whole action taking place in a single day. Even Michelangelo's sculptures, to us transcendent, surely would have seemed a bit flowery compared to the austere beauty of Phidias' figures vivifying the frieze around the Parthenon.

Leonardo would have amazed them, I have little doubt of that. But then he possessed something of the Greek scientific spirit.

But I think the strangest to them (save one) would be our favoured medium of television. I feel sure that they have would rolled on the floor in paroxysms of laughter at the thought of whole nations sitting down in front of little boxes living their lives through 'others' on a screen, watching 22 men kicking a piece of plastic around a patch of grass. What Aristophanes would have done with that!

The TV, computer or mobile screen isn't like a theatre, or a concert or even a lecture hall which has an authentic sensory reality for the eye and ear to rest upon. It has taken many years to train modern humanity to the 'bridle' of the TV sofa and I doubt if a more vigorous race such as the Greeks would be able to keep their attention on it for very long.

As for the leaders of the commonwealth, I really don't think that Plato or Socrates would see much difference in these and their ancient counterparts plying their trade in the agora or ekkleisia. Their teeth might be whiter.

Strangely enough I think they might be quite interested in the early Beatles with those Pythagorean harmonies that seemed to come from another time and place.

But I feel that the overarching difference to them would be the modern pace of life. In my talks on the 21st Century Plato, I had my Plato talking to Socrates via kosmic emails and in the first one he complained that he couldn't understand why the people of this strange culture (us) were continually rushing around with hardly a pause and then flopping down into a mindless trance in front of the screen before jumping up and starting all over again. But in his second email he told Socrates that he now understood the reason for all the panic and rush. "They think they have to achieve everything in a single live, and have completely lost the true meaning of leisure."

I really think that the rejection of the Pythagorean notion of metempsychosis (rebirth of the soul into a body) for Christian eschatology (preparation for the 'afterlife') had the most detrimental effect on mankind.

Good luck

Pete
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Peter Worman



Joined: 04 Jul 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Durban, South Africa

PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Pete,

Thanks for your well considered reply, parts of which resonate with me and others that need more consideration.

Sincere Regards

Peter

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