78. Phaedo on the Soul and the Afterlife, Part 1

Phaedo :
Phaedo :

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.

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77. The Death and Resurrection of Israel

The Destruction of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.

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.

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76. Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 2; A Common Uneducated Slave

Plato's Meno

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.

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75. The Essence of Virtue – Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 1

75. The Essence of Virtue – Plato’s ‘Meno’ Part 1

The Essence of Virtue Plato's 'Meno' Part 1:
Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey

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.

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74. Faith and Reason -The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 3

Faith and Reason: Benedict's Regensburg Address touched on how Kant picked up where Luther left off, leading us eventually to the juxtaposition between faith and science we currently see.

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.

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73. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 2

Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI expounded on how Greek philosophy ties in with modern theology and how the logos of the Greeks really points to God and his transcendence.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI delivers an address in Regensburg, Germany, in 2006. (Credit: AP)

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.

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72. The Regensburg Address of Pope Benedict XVI, Part 1

Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address concerning the disharmony between faith and reason in the modern world gave rise to much controversy instead of introspection.
Pope Benedict XVI

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.

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71. Plato’s ‘Crito’: Crito’s Attempt to Rescue Socrates from Death, Part 2

Getty Images

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.

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70. The True Meaning of Christmas – Killing Serpents

Mary Crushing the Serpent

In reality, many of us do not look forward to Christmas because it is a time of stress at worst, or syrupy sentimentalism at best. This is because we have lost the true meaning of Christmas – the killing of serpents. Once we realize that killing serpents is the true meaning of Christmas, it will greatly improve our lives and invigorate us with a zest for living again.  

Genesis 3:15 is the first prophesy in the Bible announcing the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus.1 It is the first Christmas prophecy, if you will, and speaks about the coming of the Savior, a Savior who came to crush the serpent’s head.

So the Lord God said to the serpent…”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

– Genesis 3:15 (RSV)
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69. Plato’s ‘Crito’: Crito’s Attempt to Rescue Socrates from Death, Part 1

Plato's 'Crito'
Crito closes the eyes of his deceased friend Socrates in a late 18th century relief by sculptor Antonio Canova

In Plato’s dialogue Crito, we have an account of an attempt by Crito to rescue Socrates from death. Crito had devised a way of escape, but Socrates refused. Socrates’ adamant refusal to save his own life gives us yet another glimpse into the life of this humble philosopher who changed the course of Western civilization.

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