Philosopher Kings and Forms

Plato’s Republic – Philosopher Kings and Forms

Subject Plato’s Republic – Philosopher Kings and Forms
Created 11/11/2010 6:10:00 AM
Posted 1/16/2011 2:31:00 AM
Notes on Plato’s Republic – Philosopher Kings and Forms

After tinkering around on Lulu and such, here is a little more on Plato’s ‘The Republic’.

Some of this may be a little rushed as I am squeezing it in before
‘An Economic Turn: A Hermeneutical Reinterpretation of Political Economy with Respect to the Question of Land’ – a seminar hosted by Todd Mei from the University of Kent.
(And for those who like this kind of thing here’s my initial notes to The Republic)
The Philosopher King
Plato recognises that an ideal can be an aspiration.
Then proposes a paradigm: a paragon of justice would be a just man… why? (in big red-gold letters)
Because he is there to set an example?
Does that make his use of ‘aspiration’ a defence?
‘Exemplify’. Something I will consider later.
Introduction of the combination: ruling + philosopher
so he eulogises law and in doing so sets a pattern (he has form = poise… hmm)
And so to forms, the crux of Plato’s thinking.
Plato’s analogies become a little stretched at this point (oh yeah, I haven’t read further so perhaps I ought to put redacting on the menu!)
When Plato focuses on ‘the truth’ where does that leave ‘love of thought’?
P269 If sensation seeking is a barrier to understanding (a point with which many sufis will agree) where does this leave ‘experience’?
The dreamer and the awake – a ploy with words. In a way Plato inverts what is actually going on – but we shall continue to continue.
Knowable and unknowable – again an utterly stretched analogy – to (in a sense) manipulate rather than approach his objectives.
Opinion and knowledge are different – but if you can change your point of view – you are after all the observer (as are we all) – and thus must place yourself somewhere. So what does Plato do? He tries to place the observer outside the universe. Interesting.
Opinion can also be rendered as belief (no surprises there).
P275 Garbled rationalisation – beauty depends on p.o.v.
perception of eternal unchanging things may not require this, but to stick beauty into this particular fray is a heroic act.
P276 Underlines his position on on absolute beauty (perhaps a form / of form)
And then follows a definition of philosopher ‘capacity to grasp the eternal and immutable’ – three cheers for the detached!
noting that Plato makes Socrates rail against the sophists, an irony given the intellectual fruit from his theory of forms (thus closing the circle)
Corruption of Philosophy (p280)
In discussing the rare characters who might become his ‘philosopher-kings’ we are treated to some desirable qualities:
Greatness (not petty or small minded)
Learns well
Sense of proportion
If you love truth should you hate falsehood? Plato could distinguish between education and entertainment but doesn’t. Perhaps Plato would have made a bad critic, and one might imagine that he would have considered ‘teaching stories’ of doubtful merit.
Plato caveats the utility of these rare individuals. They (the philosophers) are useless in a country of the opinionated, can be corrupted by the distractions and indulgences of life (surprise, surprise).
I begin to wonder how Plato can identify let alone extol their gift. So here’s some imaginary dialogue:
Me: “Come again, what’s all this about the rare gift of a philosophic nature?”
Plato: “Immutable, locked in a perpetual immovable embrace of extreme truth. Well extreme! And extremely true!”
Me: “Oh. So something I can’t see.”
Plato: (partly to himself)”They used to like that kind of thing back then you know.” Then to me, “No. That’s paraphrasing something Socrates said. Or might have said. It’s just an analogy.”
Me: “But how can you know if someone has this ‘gift’?”
Plato: “Well you can’t really. But if you feed the dog a bone, you get an opportunity to encourage some civilised behaviour. Yes, I know it sounds just a little manipulative but some of the punters go for it.”
Me: “And the analogies?”
Plato: “I got fed up with teaching stories early on, you know. We had this beautiful language and what did we do? Tell stories about some silly animal. Much preferred analogies, in fact did fine with them. And there were some gems. That said, I’ve moved off those as well. Quite a while back actually…” He pauses to count on his fingers, thinks about using his toes then gives up, “for several centuries anyway. How long have I been dead? Are you still having problems with the Persians? No. Don’t bother answering. Some things never change.”
Oh. Okay then. I don’t really want to pull Plato to bits. But unless you shake the tree how can you determine the shape of the fruit.


About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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