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June 13th, 2012

Reading Plato with bobby1933

Originally posted by amaebi

bobby1933 and I were having a brief discussion about what the most productive conversation is that led to our resolve to read some Plato together, in Englisf. Y'all are welcome to join in! At least thus far bobby1933 is setting the order of readings. First up: Ion, which addresses the skills of the rhetor. Next up, Euthyphro.

Note: One thing we're looking at is the approach of the character Socrates.


One thing that strikes me immediately is that the finessed-in mode of interpreting poetry is pretty odd by my standards-- it's that of a Scripture literalist examining and interpreting the Great Practical Truths of the text. And this framework serves Socrates well in the leisurely roasting of his boastful young interlocutor.

Which is what I think he's doing. He's pretty laid-back about it, but he's eviscerating Ion's claims of Knowing Everything from Homer (the best poet) best, cuz golly gee Ion just won the rhetor prize. With their shared and undiscussed context for what the interpretation of Homer means, Socrates finds it simple to help Ion reveal to himself that he's full of flapdoodle.

It's not clear to me what the motive of Plato's Socrates is. Maybe Ion just gets up his nose. Though Io certainly doesn't seem to pose any danger of misleading a young man Socrates cares for, as, say, Gorgias (IIRC) does. Possibly Plato or Socrates is simply down on poetry: the Socrates of The Republic speaks against poetry, drama, and fabulation generally.

But no, I don't perceive Noble Humble Disinterested Pursuit of Truth.

(I wonder who else was listening to their conversation? Maybe the actual Plato....)

Note: I don't know what the rhetors of the classical world did, exactly, in their lit crit. I've heard scholarly chit-chat about it, but i don't know what sources it's based on. Maybe they did discuss the Iliad as a guide to chariot-driving. But on principles to do with human love of story in general, I'm inclined to doubt it..
..
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bobby1933 wrote:
Jun. 13th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)

Iliad as Guide to Chariot Driving?
I read with real enjoyment Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance while learning nothing about Zen and very little about Motorcycles. I also much enjoy (and learn from) the Taoist stories about ox butchering and wheel making though i will never be a butcher or a wheelwright.

No, the Socrates of Ion does not satisfy my criteria of an ideal conversationalist. To my 20th century American ears he seems a little snide, maybe arrogant.

I've met Ion in various incarnations and may a bit like him myself.
One former acquaintance who taught English (American Literature i think) had, in his youth written a very successful vampire story (later made into a motion picture). His students told me he was obsessed with vampires and vampire fiction (including his own) No class period on any subject avoided reference to vampires. Students thought they learned a lot more about vampires than about American Lit. If i had had occasion to to engage him in a conversation about teaching, i think i would have owed him my opinion that he was more a savant than a professional teacher.
I don't think i could have got the message across in a more kindly manner than Socrates supposedly did. And Ion does seem to have appreciated the discussion and to have acquired new knowledge about himself.

There is a certain formality to the dialogues that may be due more to Plato than to Socrates. (Why give four examples when one or two would have done as well?--Maybe that was the Form) Such formalism detract from the human quality of the conversation.  It also adds to the impression that Socrates is arrogant and a "know it all."

I am conscious that i am witnessing the birth of Western Philosophy; though there were Cynics, Stoics, and Pythagoreans among Socrates' students, Socrates was still breaking new ground.

I have the Upanishads, the Hebrew Bible, and the Tao Te Ching as standards -- very high standards to compare to the Dialogues.

bobby1933 wrote:
Jun. 13th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
I have just clicked your link to Ion, which, i think, is the same translation i read but without Jowett's introduction which is helpful and partly confirms my opinion that Ion might have been autistic.

Sweet Shrimp - Reading Plato with bobby1933

Daily Tao - 32

Tao is an eternal mystery,
so small you can never take hold of it.

If a leader gets right with Tao,
people will follow him on instinct.
All will be right with the world.
People will do the right thing
without being told.

Everything that comes from Tao
needs a name.
But once everything has its name,
you should make no other distinction between things.
This prevents you
from becoming trapped by them.

Everything in the universe is full of Tao
and leads to Tao,
just like the water in rivers
that flows into oceans.
-

The Beatrice Tao.

Daily Tao - 32

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