Despite all of our technology, the Greeks were, in many ways, wiser than we are. We should not mistake knowledge for wisdom, for we have much more knowledge. They were wiser for many reasons, but especially because they recognized that human beings have immortal souls, something that we have lost today. This is the subject of Plato’s Phaedo.Continue reading “80. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 3”
79. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 2
Many people think about the afterlife on a regular basis, while others avoid the subject. But coming to grips with our mortality is essential if we are going to have any sort of meaningful life. This is what Plato’s Phaedo is all about. After all, as the saying goes, if you don’t know how to die, then you don’t know how to live.Continue reading “79. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 2”
78. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 1
Phaedo deals with the remaining hours of Socrates’ life. As such, there is much we can learn from it. The contrast above is stark and represents what Socrates accomplished in his death: turning the West from a violence-based culture to one of reason. On the right, we have the famous Greek hero Achilles, whose death was truly a tragedy. On the left, we have the famous Greek philosopher Socrates, whose death was truly heroic.
Achilles represents an age in Greek history when men could only aspire to greatness by aspiring to glory in war. The ancient Greeks termed this kleos. Any kleos that Achilles gained in battle was to know avail, for the brooding, angry warrior ended up in the shadowy existence of the underworld.
Socrates, by his death, taught us that there was a far superior way, the way of virtue, or arete. Socrates sought to exercise reason in the face of evil and injustice, not returning evil for evil. This made him virtuous. By doing so, he set the West on a better, but not perfect, trajectory. This lasted until the French Revolution, which set the way of violence once again as the primary means of controlling populations through the all-powerful nation-state.
By studying Socrates’ death, we can hope to learn the difference between arete and kleos. If we can do that as a culture at large, then there is hope for the future. If not, then the West will descend into a new Dark Age that characterized the Greek Homeric Age. Homer collected stories about Achilles and others during that time and passed them down to future generations. Maybe Socrates can show us a better way.Continue reading “78. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 1”
77. The Death and Resurrection of Israel
Since the beginning of human history, nations and empires have risen and fallen. We live in interesting times, when the United States Empire and even the West itself appear to have collapsed. Western Civilization will lose the progress it has made in a few decades if things continue as they are. In light of these events, my Easter post this year deals with the death and resurrection of the nation of Israel.Continue reading “77. The Death and Resurrection of Israel”
76. Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 2; A Common Uneducated Slave
Can a common, uneducated slave do complex geometry without ever learning it? This is one of the questions in Plato’s Meno. Plato was hoping that the answer to this question was yes, for that would give hope to slaves everywhere.
This and other unusual aspects of the dialogue make it one of Plato’s most interesting and thought-provoking dialogues.Continue reading “76. Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 2; A Common Uneducated Slave”
75. The Essence of Virtue – Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 1
75. The Essence of Virtue – Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 1
What is virtue? The Essence of Virtue is a difficult concept to define, Although most people can identify examples of virtue, such as courage or justice, defining the concept of virtue, as well as those individual concepts. This is what the dialogue of Meno is all about: defining virtue.
Plato’s other dialogues, like this one, frustrate us because they never provide clear answers. However, it is important to note that the Greeks were more focused on asking questions than providing answers. This is how they viewed the world: that the key to understanding is asking the right questions. Before we become critical of the Greeks, we must realise that we moderns have just the opposite problem. Modern man is more interested in answers than questions. In our haste to make sense of the world, we fail to ask the right questions and, as a result, end up with a superficial understanding of the world around us.Continue reading “75. The Essence of Virtue – Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 1”
74. Faith and Reason -The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 3
This is the third and final part of a series on Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address on “Faith and Reason”. If you wish, you can start at post 72 if you have not read it yet, and then proceed post 73, but that is not necessary. You can also read this as a standalone.
Benedict gave this groundbreaking address before a group of distinguished scientists in Germany on September 12, 2006. In a nutshell, he explained how science must be rooted in transcendent ideas to be most effective. It is one of the best explanations of philosophy in modern times.
The whole point of Benedict’s speech and of this blog is to show how strange it is that we have separated faith and reason, something that most philosophers before the Enlightenment would have found hard to understand. We will only be happy and whole as people and culture, when we get back to that natural state.Continue reading “74. Faith and Reason -The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 3”
73. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 2
In the above photo, Pope Benedict prepares to give his Regensburg Address, which resulted in a firestorm of controversy throughout the world. Please read post 72 to get the essential background of this address. In that post, I discussed Pope Benedict’s idea that it was the relationship between Greek philosophy and Christian revelation that built Western Civilization. In this post, I examine Pope Benedict’s thoughts on what went wrong and how to repair the damage.Continue reading “73. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 2”
72. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 1
On Tuesday, September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address to representatives of science from Bavaria at the University of Regensburg, Germany entitled Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections. His 4,000-word address dealt with the very theme of this blog – the relationship between faith and reason, particularly from the perspective of Greek philosophy. As such, the address stands as one of the clearest elucidations of this subject in modern times. His words continue to inspire me as I write this blog.
The Regensburg address of Pope Benedict also caused much controversy, as the truth always does, stirring up protests and violence throughout the world. Many modern commentaries focus on this controversy, completely missing the entire point of his lecture. In honor of Pope Benedict and in light of his recent passing on December 31, 2022, I thought it would be an appropriate time to discuss his Regensburg Address, its controversy, and his take on faith and reason.Continue reading “72. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 1”
71. Plato’s ‘Crito’: Crito’s Attempt to Rescue Socrates from Death, Part 2
In part I of this story, I explained how Crito tried unsuccessfully to convince Socrates to abandon his noble stance of proceeding with his execution and implored him to take the escape route planned out by Crito and others. I discussed how Crito approached the situation from a totally self-centered perspective: What would Crito’s friends think if they thought that Crito did not help his friend escape? It was all about Crito. He was approaching the situation from a common person’s perspective and not from a philosopher’s perspective.
Now Crito, in desperation, tries one last time to deter Socrates from the cup of poison hemlock.Continue reading “71. Plato’s ‘Crito’: Crito’s Attempt to Rescue Socrates from Death, Part 2”