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Ch. 5 - Plato: The Rule of Reason 
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Post Ch. 5 - Plato: The Rule of Reason
Ch. 5 - Plato: The Rule of Reason

Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 5.



Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:00 am
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Plato: The Rule of Reason

He was one of the first to argue that the open-minded but systematic use of our reason can show us the best way to live.

Well, any god would expect us to use our brains, eh?

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Sat Mar 08, 2008 7:18 pm
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Right, aren't Plato and Socrates good candidates for heroes? The challenge they pose is in using reason properly, which is far different from just saying we believe in using reason. For Plato, using reason well could only be done after long study by those who were suited by birth for such study. So in the Republic, at least, the men and women who had mastered the use of reason and philosophy were an elite, almost a priesthood. I imagine we are not very comfortable with this idea today, though.

Coming after the chapter on the bible and Christianity, this one is quite a contrast. Belief and submission to God was all that was needed for salvation. No great mental powers were required. For Plato, God is not even the focus, but our reason is in some sense an expression of an abstract divinity. I see similarity between Plato and Confucius, in that ultimate reality is not as important as how we live together in society. The authority of sages was important in Confucianism, though, while we can't imagine Socrates saying something is so just because an authority has said it. It would be up to everyone to test the truth of any statement for herself.

There is, though, similarity in the views of human nature between Plato and the biblical view. Plato divided us into soul and body and gave our soul three parts. This thinking worked its way into Christianity as well and even into Freudianism.

Platonism, it would seem is partly philosophy and partly religion. Plato's idea of the soul, involving a kind of reincarnation, is a scientifically untestable idea. Note, though, that in Plato's view he arrived at it through reason, which illustrates that science and reason are not identical. One can reason from assumptions that can't be proved. We probably all do this.

In general, though, Plato's notion of HN is down to earth, accessible, and even if not correct in every detail, very usable even in our time.

The book reinforces for me that we don't have a settled human nature. HN is really a belief that we acquire just like any belief. It is a part of religion or philosophy rather than being a base on which they are subsequently built, as far as I can see.
Will



Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:11 am
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DWill wrote:
The authority of sages was important in Confucianism, though, while we can't imagine Socrates saying something is so just because an authority has said it. It would be up to everyone to test the truth of any statement for herself.


In other words, unless you're 'somebody' you can't pass your opinion on.

Are they heroes? Or were you just being facetious - ha! ha!

I think somebody like Thoreau would be a hero - that is, if people had been wise enough to listen to him. If society had listened to him, we wouldn't be battling this capitalistic society today. People would have what they needed, use only what they needed and be happy with what that.

DWill wrote:
The book reinforces for me that we don't have a settled human nature. HN is really a belief that we acquire just like any belief. It is a part of religion or philosophy rather than being a base on which they are subsequently built, as far as I can see.


Like Buddhism . . . things can be so simple with less headaches.

Sorry, I'm not much of an intellectual, but it's like the guy said about art - I know nothing about it, but I know what I like when I see it - or something like that.



Thu Mar 27, 2008 3:28 pm
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Hi wildcitywoman,
Yes, I was serious about Socrates and Plato as heroes (though not to be worshiped). Showing that by our reason we can solve the problems of living and not have to rely on supernatural concepts is a great acheivement.

So you like Thoreau too? Maybe we should read Walden in this club. I'd put him up for hero status, too, not that he was beyond criticism, but he showed us a great deal about how we might live--if only, as you say, we were willing to listen!
Will



Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:02 am
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Yes, Walden would be a great story to do.

I wish Thoreau had written more stuff.

Maybe we oughta' do Emerson, as well.



Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:28 am
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Well, Thoreau wrote enough, I think, if you include his essays and travel books. My favorite of the travel books is The Maine Woods. And then there are the Journals, which are massive and which I've only read some parts of. Emerson I like, too, and admire very much for the courage he showed throughout his life. He is a lot more obscure than Thoreau for me, though. Ever had the opportunity to visit Concord? My brother used to live near there, so I was able to see the important places in Concord when visiting him. One of my favorite lines from Thoreau, by the way, is "I have traveled much in Concord." He could learn more from a few square miles of land than most of us can learn by traveling the world.
Will



Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:47 am
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I guess a lot of Thoreau is available in online text - let's suggest doing him (general works).

I'll look around for it and collect some urls. And see what the library's got, besides Walden Woods.

What I liked about Walden Woods was the way Thoreau flow on in his writing without making a big intellectual thing out of his thoughts.

It's an easy read.

Emerson, I haven't read any - just know he and Thoreau were friends (associates) and think I'll read some of his stuff sometime.



Sun Mar 30, 2008 8:18 am
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