I started reading Plato’s Republic this morning. I bought the Allan Bloom translation a while back and am finally getting to it. I only read the introductions and a couple pages of the book so far, but damn…it’s awesome. I’m glad I read the introductions because they gave me some really good insight as to why it was written and what we might get out of it by doing so.
Here are a couple quotes I’m already in love with:
From the introduction by Adam Kirsch
“In other words, Plato’s focus is not so much on the content of Socrates’s ideas as on the way those ideas affect and transform his listeners, enabling them to start actually thinking, instead of merely repeating platitudes.”
Philosophy doesn’t teach you what to think. It’s not a list of rules. It teaches to you how to think, to use your mind and navigate the world around you. When we say “My philosophy is…,” we don’t mean these are my rules for living. We should mean this is how I look at the world and decipher it’s meaning.
“…philosophy was fundamentally a subversive pursuit and had been recognized as such for most of history.”
Subversive! That’s why they killed Socrates. Philosophers aren’t supposed to tow the line of conventional thought. They blur up those lines and force us to re-think and define how we came to those lines. It should make you angry! We’d all love nothing more than to float through life on easy street, but that limits the future, not only ours but our children’s.
“The Enlightenment, taken literally, believed that the light could be brought into the cave and the shadows dispelled; men, in that view, could live in perfect light.” -Bloom
Socrates believed there was an elite that could understand things better and take care of the rest of humanity. Political rulers, priests, and professors. They had the books and the intelligence to take care of the masses. The rest needed to listen. If the man that came back from outside the cave came in saying, let me lead you out into the world so you can be free, they’d kill him. That may be true. But what I’d love is this idea from the Enlightenment. The cave is dark and shadowy, bring light in and every human will have to learn truth on their own and they will. Unfortunately, the older I get the more I start to think that just isn’t possible.
“His (a philosopher) situation is extremely dangerous, because he knows truths the rest of the world is determined not to hear.”
It’s like we’re all on a very fixed track to get to point B and we will not be dissuaded. The philosopher comes in with his wild ideas, maybe we can be kinder, maybe we can love each other, maybe we can not use force…what a monster. Everyone knows taxes must be paid to make roads for us to use. Everyone knows that women’s healthcare means being able to kill off unborn children. Everyone knows that if we don’t bomb the shit out of that country they’ll kill us all. Lord help the person that suggests maybe, just maybe, we can do otherwise.
Writing all of this I suddenly realize how poignant Dr. Seuss books are.