Socrates left no writings of his own, and all we know about him comes through Plato’s writings, including his dialogue Apology. The Apology is a recounting, through Plato’s eyes, of Socrates’ testimony and the trial leading up to his execution. Of all of Plato’s writings including his apology, this dialogue especially captures the human side of Socrates and his belief in a singular god. If we want to know Socrates the man – his desires, motivations, struggles, and core beliefs – then this is the dialogue to read. It is as if Plato takes the two-dimensional, black-and-white image of Socrates that we are all accustomed to and adds vivid color, breathing new life into him and animating him to the point that we feel like we know him.Continue reading “68. Plato’s Apology: Socrates’ Defense at His Trial Before His Execution, Part 2”
Most defendants in a capital case have the singular goal of saving their own lives. With Socrates’ defense, we get a different impression. Although he would have no doubt welcomed an acquittal, we get the sense that Socrates’ primary goal was to enlighten those in the Athenian courtroom the day of his trial – to encourage them to seek the truth – since he was always the consummate teacher.Continue reading “67. Plato’s Apology: Socrates’ Defense at His Trial Before His Execution, Part 1”
I want to save the earth just about as much as anyone else. It is all the rage these days. And as I think about it, I probably want to save the earth more than most other people. If you want to save the earth, chances are that your ambitions are actually way too small. You see, I don’t just want to save the earth, I want an entirely new one. This earth seems worn out. Why not replace it?Continue reading “66.The Only Way to Save the Earth”
What is the relationship between God and justice? Is something just because God wills it, or does God will it because it is just? This is the essence of what has been termed Euthyphro’s dilemma. I introduced this in my previous post 64 in the context of Socrates questioning a young, arrogant man, named Euthyphro, on the nature of piety in the eponymously named dialogue by Plato.
In that dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates posits the question as follows:
Consider this: Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?– Plato, Euthyphro 10a
We can really substitute the words “justice” and “goodness” for the word “piety” to frame the question in modern terminology. In other words, is something good because God wills it, or does God will it because it is good?
And lest we think that this discussion is not relevant for today. Consider the following line by rapper Jay-Z from the song “No Church in the Wild”:
Is pious pious ’cause God loves pious? Socrates asked ‘Whose bias do y’all seek?’1
What is the significance of this dilemma for us today and why did Jay-Z reference it?Continue reading “65. Euthyphro’s Dilemma and the Relationship Between God and Goodness”
Socrates found himself in some trouble in Plato’s Euthyphro. He had just been indicted on serious charges by a relatively unknown Athenian citizen. Miletus, his principle accuser, was simply a mouthpiece and puppet for Socrates’ true arch-enemy Anytus, a powerful Athenian politician.1 Miletus’ affidavit stated that Socrates was guilty of corrupting the youth and also of impiety towards the gods – both serious offenses, the impiety charge being especially so.
When the dialogue opens, we find Socrates at the king-archon’s court to answer his indictments. King-archon was one of the nine principle magistrates of Athens.2 This particular court had oversight of legal cases involving alleged offenses of impiety toward the Olympian gods. The worship of the gods, which included various rituals and purifications, fell under the purview of the civil government.
At the court, Socrates just happened to run into Euthyphro, a professional priest who considered himself, and was considered by others, to be an expert in such matters of piety and ritual.3 Euthyphro tells Socrates that he is there to file murder charges against his father.
What is the purpose of this dialogue? At the end, I will give you my unique perspective that I have not seen anywhere else.Continue reading “64. Socrates’ Authentic Search for Piety in Plato’s Dialogue ‘Euthyphro’”
Alcibiades was a young man in Athens who seemingly had everything: looks, noble birth, friends and connections in high places, and intense ambition to go with it all. He was a proud young man who elicited envy from his peers. One person who wasn’t envious, but instead, deeply concerned, was none other than Socrates himself. Socrates’ line of intense questioning led the nineteen-year-old Alcibiades on a journey of self-discovery with hopes of his betterment as a citizen and leader.
Welcome to one of Plato’s earliest and most intriguing dialogues – Alcibiades. It is also one of the most foundational because through the entertaining interchange between Socrates and Alcibiades, Plato brings us into the deeper philosophical waters of self-examination and the meaning of human nature.Continue reading “63. Plato’s Dialogues: Alcibiades and the Challenge of Self-Examination”
Plato failed. He failed three times in trying to establish his ideal philosopher-king in Syracuse, Sicily. But when we think of Plato, we do not think of Plato’s failures; on the contrary, we think of one of the most accomplished people in history. After all, he did leave an impressive corpus of philosophical dialogues that proved to be indispensable in laying the foundation of Western civilization. He is in that exclusive club of the top five most influential philosophers of Western civilization that includes, aside from himself, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, and Marx. But Plato also failed, and failed miserably. In this post, I want to talk about why this aspect of Plato’s life is relevant for us today.Continue reading “62. Plato’s Great Political Failures in Sicily and Beyond”
This is part five of a fictional dialogue amongst friends discussing the life of Plato. Please read the previous post for immediate context. If you want to start at the beginning, see post 57. Plato fled Athens after the execution of his friend and teacher Socrates for obvious reasons. Plato traveled for almost two decades afterward, his most significant time being spent in Egypt. After his time in Egypt, he traveled to Sicily where he found himself in hot water with Dionysius I, tyrant of Sicily. After confronting Tyrant Dionysius and being sold into slavery in Aegina, Plato finally returns to Athens to establish his Academy. We pick up the story at the end of a conversation between Plato and Dionysius that quickly turned sour.
Come and join Xenon and the other guests as they meet at the home of Damien for dinner and conversation about the life of Plato….Continue reading “61. Plato Establishes His Academy – The Greatest Philosopher 5”
This is part four of a fictional Plato’s dialogues discussing the life. If you wish to start at the beginning, please see post 57. Young Plato fled Athens for obvious reasons after the death of his teacher Socrates. He spent some time in Cyrene where he learned mathematics. And then, he lived in Egypt for about twelve years where he became steeped in metaphysics, Egyptian style. It was there that he was introduced to the concept of Forms.
In this post, Plato leaves the ideal philosophical world and enters the rough-and-tumble world of real-life politics in Sicily. This is apt training for someone about to return to his hometown of Athens.
So, come and join Xenon and the other guests as they once again meet at the home of Damien for dinner and conversation about the life of Plato….Continue reading “60. Plato’s First Visit to Sicily – The Greatest Philosopher 4”
This is part three of a fictional dialogue discussing the life of Plato. In the previous post, Plato fled Athens after the execution of his friend and teacher Socrates (I suggest also reading the first part of the story, if you haven’t already). After traveling for almost two decades, Plato spent his most significant time in Egypt. These years of travel significantly formed Plato’s thoughts, especially, which perplexes me as people don’t write more about this when discussing his philosophy.
So, come and join Xenon and the other guests as they meet at the home of Damien for dinner and conversation about the life of Plato….Continue reading “59. Plato in Egypt – The Greatest Philosopher 3”