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The Plato Thread
#11
RE: The Plato Thread
I really like the Apology, Crito and Phaedo. Beautiful literature.

The Republic is clearly a reaction to the execution of Socrates, preferring the Spartan model of government. Bleh.

I see the parable of the cave as a basic philosophical mistake that has had many bad consequences over the past couple millennia. Beautiful ideas, but ultimately a deep mistake.

Meno has a very interesting argument, from mathematics, about the nature of knowledge and memory. it is interesting to see how the slave arrives at the correct answers, but only through leading questions.

There is also a dialog, I don't recall which one, in which Theatetus mentions that he has a proof that `square roots' are irrational unless the integer is a perfect square. This is interesting as part of the history of mathematical ideas. The discovery of irrational ratios was a blow to the Pythagorean philosophy and the investigation of the concept of irrational ratios by Theatetus was quite important. There is even a quote in Aristotle using Theatetus' definition as opposed to the more well-known definition by Eudoxus. In any case, that Theatetus claims to have a proof is interesting because the only natural proof at that stage would have been one using prime numbers and unique factorization.
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#12
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 6, 2021 at 10:12 pm)Astreja Wrote: I'm very new to Plato - about halfway through Republic at the moment.  Not a fan of the "Let's restrict what the playwrights and poets can say in our city" concept, or the idea that people should only work at one particular occupation and not dabble in others.  Even if it's allegory, there's something rather creepy about it.

Yes. He desires a rigid society where poets are censored and information is controlled. There was a 20th century philosopher (I forget who it was) who used to call him "Plato the fascist." There are even more worrisome mandates in Book 6 (I think... near book 6 anyway)... where he talks about wanting everyone in the society to believe they are from the same family in an almost cult-like unity. Sort of reminiscent of the vibe fed to the children in the Hitler Youth.

What's more, very late in the book, after much has been expounded, one of the interlocutors asks Socrates what he thinks his best idea is concerning the hypothetical city. His answer? Censoring the poets.

I disagree with that assessment. There are TONS of better ideas featured in the Republic. In fact, I think the censorship of the poets is one of the worst-- if not the worst-- idea featured in the entire book.

You've already picked up on one possible defense of the charge "Plato is a fascist," Astreja. It's allegory. And at the point where Plato really lays out the details of the city's censorship policies, Books 2 and 3, the city being allegory for the soul is very much in the forefront of the conversation... the supposed allegory being that Plato is advising us to be selective about what we read, and read only things that strengthen us.

But I don't think a first-time reader need spend too much time thinking about how Plato could be defended on this. The Republic is designed to say "no" to while you read it. Like I advised emjay, when Plato says something you disagree with, go ahead and say "no." And then think about WHY you disagree. The Republic is pregnant with ideas that aren't even featured on the pages... they are your own ideas. Plato is very much the Socratic midwife in the Republic. That's why it's a work of astounding genius. When you read it, you are invited to Ancient Athens to participate in a discussion about what justice is.

As to the charge of Plato being a fascist. I disagree with the assessment for many reasons. (I won't list them here). But I also don't think the allegation is plucked from thin air. Throughout much of the Republic, Plato is criticizing democracy for its shortcomings. I personally agree with Winston Churchill: "democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried." But since I believe in democracy... and I live in a democracy, I better pay special heed to its shortcomings, right? That's where Plato's analysis is valuable. He does just that, and I think everyone who lives in a democracy and believes democracy is the best system ought to pay close attention to Plato's criticisms.
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#13
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 6, 2021 at 9:57 am)Angrboda Wrote: I love Plato!  He's one of my favorite characters!

[Image: Pluto.PNG]

Pluto is very pissed at Neil.
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#14
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 7, 2021 at 11:31 am)polymath257 Wrote: The Republic is clearly a reaction to the execution of Socrates, preferring the Spartan model of government. Bleh.

I'm familiar with this narrative. And for all we know it's true, or at least true to some degree.

[I had some other analysis here, but it wasn't coherently expressed, so- delete]


Quote:I see the parable of the cave as a basic philosophical mistake that has had many bad consequences over the past couple millennia. Beautiful ideas, but ultimately a deep mistake.

@Brian37 mentioned this line of criticism. And, I have to say, there is merit to what Brian37 and Dawkins say on the matter. But I wouldn't call it a mistake.

I don't think rationalism is quite dead. It's probably the most underrated of modes to understanding reality. What's more, rationalism is constantly contrasted to empiricism. As if one contradicts the other. There is no principle contradiction between rationalism and empiricism. Many philosophers have pointed out that empiricism has something of a "rationalist skeleton." That empiricism itself depends on the primacy of logic to be true. I see the two approaches as complimentary, not contradictory.

If anything... even to one who wants to pronounce rationalism dead, you still have my "wrong idea being a sounding board for the right idea" notion I explained in the other thread to contend with. If anything the divided line and allegory of the cave were a hell of a sounding board for the right idea. Like I said before, gods, bigfoot, and UFOs are shitty ideas/explanations that don't help us get to the right idea. But with Plato's well-articulated vision, we learn something valuable when we knock it down. If some people in history took it as gospel, that's their fault. Socrates urged us to question everything and even admits in Book 1 of the Republic that he knows nothing. I take that as a genuine disclaimer for the ideas that follow, whether Plato intended it or not.

Quote:Meno has a very interesting argument, from mathematics, about the nature of knowledge and memory. it is interesting to see how the slave arrives at the correct answers, but only through leading questions.

There is also a dialog, I don't recall which one, in which Theatetus mentions that he has a proof that `square roots' are irrational unless the integer is a perfect square. This is interesting as part of the history of mathematical ideas. The discovery of irrational ratios was a blow to the Pythagorean philosophy and the investigation of the concept of irrational ratios by Theatetus was quite important. There is even a quote in Aristotle using Theatetus' definition as opposed to the more well-known definition by Eudoxus. In any case, that Theatetus claims to have a proof is interesting because the only natural proof at that stage would have been one using prime numbers and unique factorization.


There were plenty of blows dealt to mathematical realism in the 19th and 20th centuries: Bertrand Russell's criticism of Frege, and a few others that escape me right now. The thing about that is that while mathematical realism became much more dissatisfying of a theory after those revelations, mathematical fictionalism and other competing theories still remain as dissatisfying as, if not more dissatisfying, than mathematical realism.

I think the main point of the slave being taught to understand a mathematical principle is that there is a real principle that is kind of "there" to be discovered. It's kind of hard to dispute that. But if you want to claim that it is true that the principle is "there" waiting to be discovered, you are presented with all kinds of metaphysical puzzles. Some of these questions are things only philosophers care about. There are distinctions there that you can kind of gloss over or easily explain away. But you can't completely explain the issue away, and (for better or worse) philosophers have been chewing on that riddle for centuries.
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#15
RE: The Plato Thread
As luck would have it, Philosophy Overdose posted this brief video today:



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#16
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 8, 2021 at 4:41 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: As luck would have it, Philosophy Overdose posted this brief video today:

An abstraction about abstractions.
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#17
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 7, 2021 at 11:31 am)polymath257 Wrote: The Republic is clearly a reaction to the execution of Socrates, preferring the Spartan model of government. Bleh.

I see the parable of the cave as a basic philosophical mistake that has had many bad consequences over the past couple millennia. Beautiful ideas, but ultimately a deep mistake.

Audible has a dramatic reading of The Republic, which is fantastic. It's a bit pricey at $24.99, but, you could always join, get your free book, and then quit! (What would Plato say to this scheming??)
And without delay Peter went quickly out of the synagogue (assembly) and went unto the house of Marcellus, where Simon lodged: and much people followed him...And Peter turned unto the people that followed him and said: Ye shall now see a great and marvellous wonder. And Peter seeing a great dog bound with a strong chain, went to him and loosed him, and when he was loosed the dog received a man's voice and said unto Peter: What dost thou bid me to do, thou servant of the unspeakable and living God? Peter said unto him: Go in and say unto Simon in the midst of his company: Peter saith unto thee, Come forth abroad, for thy sake am I come to Rome, thou wicked one and deceiver of simple souls. And immediately the dog ran and entered in, and rushed into the midst of them that were with Simon, and lifted up his forefeet and in a loud voice said: Thou Simon, Peter the servant of Christ who standeth at the door saith unto thee: Come forth abroad, for thy sake am I come to Rome, thou most wicked one and deceiver of simple souls. And when Simon heard it, and beheld the incredible sight, he lost the words wherewith he was deceiving them that stood by, and all of them were amazed. (The Acts of Peter, 9)
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#18
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 8, 2021 at 7:00 pm)Jehanne Wrote: Audible has a dramatic reading of The Republic, which is fantastic.  It's a bit pricey at $24.99, but, you could always join, get your free book, and then quit!  (What would Plato say to this scheming??)

So what do you think of it?
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#19
RE: The Plato Thread
One objection to various forms of Platonism that I find puzzling is saying that the so-called Realm of Forms does not seem to to have a place. Today, we would call that non-local and does not seem problematic to me.
<insert profound quote here>
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#20
RE: The Plato Thread
(November 8, 2021 at 1:36 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote:
Quote:Meno has a very interesting argument, from mathematics, about the nature of knowledge and memory. it is interesting to see how the slave arrives at the correct answers, but only through leading questions.

There is also a dialog, I don't recall which one, in which Theatetus mentions that he has a proof that `square roots' are irrational unless the integer is a perfect square. This is interesting as part of the history of mathematical ideas. The discovery of irrational ratios was a blow to the Pythagorean philosophy and the investigation of the concept of irrational ratios by Theatetus was quite important. There is even a quote in Aristotle using Theatetus' definition as opposed to the more well-known definition by Eudoxus. In any case, that Theatetus claims to have a proof is interesting because the only natural proof at that stage would have been one using prime numbers and unique factorization.



There were plenty of blows dealt to mathematical realism in the 19th and 20th centuries: Bertrand Russell's criticism of Frege, and a few others that escape me right now. The thing about that is that while mathematical realism became much more dissatisfying of a theory after those revelations, mathematical fictionalism and other competing theories still remain as dissatisfying as, if not more dissatisfying, than mathematical realism.

I think the main point of the slave being taught to understand a mathematical principle is that there is a real principle that is kind of "there" to be discovered. It's kind of hard to dispute that. But if you want to claim that it is true that the principle is "there" waiting to be discovered, you are presented with all kinds of metaphysical puzzles. Some of these questions are things only philosophers care about. There are distinctions there that you can kind of gloss over or easily explain away. But you can't [i]completely
 explain the issue away, and (for better or worse) philosophers have been chewing on that riddle for centuries.
[/i]

Russell, Skolem, Godel (even though Godel was a realist!), Cohen, etc. Personally, I am a mathematical formalist with a thread that we choose axioms to conform to intuition and utility.

The interesting thing about Meno is that Socrates wasn't claiming realism in math (although that is there) as much as he was claiming that we all already know the truth, but just have to be reminded of it. This was at least as much an argument for life before we are born as it was an argument about mathematical realism.

As a formalist, I tend to see math as part of an intricate game, based on assumptions made about sets, numbers etc. So, for me, the question of the 'existence' of mathematical objects )or even mathematical arguments) becomes an analysis of games.

For example, it is pretty clear, I think, that the game of chess was invented. It isn't a universal form that is part of the nature of the universe. So, when I show you a board position and claim there is mate in 3 moves, in what sense does that sequence of moves 'exist'? As I see it, we invent the rule and then discover the consequences of those rules. How that works philosophically, I do not know.

I see math as being similar: we invent the axioms and rules of deduction, but we then discover the consequences of those rules. We choose certain rules because of their appeal to intuition or their utility (for example, the inductive principle in Peano Arithmetic), but then discover the consequences of those rules.

One idea I like to play with is what would happen if we discovered an inconsistency in mathematics (since Godel, we know this is a possibility). How would our system change? Which rules would we keep and which would we allow ourselves to discard? The last time this happened (Russel and his paradox), there was a massive overturning of how mathematics was done. What would happen the next time?
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