Ithaca Free School

Monday, January 24, 2005

Monday: A Blizzard of Greeks! (And, Um, Lucretius)

Are you ready for our no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, murderous Monday schedule? This day should be properly christened with a suitable epithet to reflect the following:

2pm: Plato.

4pm: Euclid.

6pm: Aristotle.

8pm: Lucretius.

We are going to be speaking in tongues by the end of this. On the other hand, we may be closer to understanding the workings of the state, the fall of atoms, the perfect equilateral triangle, or the real meaning of friendship.

I'd better go eat something to fortify myself.

"That's a proper working day, lad, and don't you forget it!"


At January 24, 2005 at 11:07 PM, Blogger Ithaca Free School said...

Oy vey! Eight hours later (actually twelve hours later -- but eight school-hours) we have come through to the light!

Can virtue be taught! NO! (But it can be remembered!)

A parallelogram with the same base and equal sides, something something something.

Did you know: that masters and slaves are appointed their positions by NATURE?

And Lucretius was, as usual, the bomb. Newton appealed to the authority of Lucretius when asserting the theory of gravitation. Also like Fontanelle or Bruno he asserts the plurality of worlds. Is the planet ready for the comeback of Lucretian Epicureanism? (Don't call it a comeback.)

At February 22, 2005 at 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note on the Meno

The Meno has always been one of my favorite "early" dialogs partially because I am amused by the questioning of the slave boy about geometry, but more so because Socrates actually gives some answers for once and there is revelation concerning the big issue (as I see it) in these dialogs Is αρετη (virtue, excellence, goodness) τεχνη? Socrates not only will, tentatively, answer this question, but also touch upon the theory of recollection, the Socratic method, and the nature of αρετη as φρονησισ.

Meno: Can you tell me Socrates- is virtue something that can be taught? Or does it come by practice? Or is it neither teaching nor practice that gives it to man but natural aptitude or something else?

Before this question can be answered Socrates and Meno ask what virtue is (the form of virtue and not its parts).

The theory of recollection: This is initiated by a common sophisticated argument concerning the search for knowledge: "man cannot try to discover either what he knows or what he does not know? He would not seek what he knows, for since he knows it there is no need of the inquiry, nor what he does not know, for in that case he does not even know what he is looking for." (I think this is specifically used in The Euthydemus but we shall see presently). Socrates rebuttals with the theory of recollection. The soul is immortal and reincarnated (serious or Platonic myth?) and all things known are not taught but recollected (from past experience): knowledge is a priori. Socrates demonstrates recollection by forcing a slave boy to figure out the length of the side of square A' which has double the area of square A and known length of side using the Pythagorean theorem (very amusing). The point is that the slaveboy did not know the length of the side and was not taught what said length was. He was merely questioned by Socrates.

The Socratic Method: The Socratic method (not using it colloquially) is dialectic - the speaking through an issue through questioning and answering. Its purpose is to 1) reveal the false opinion held commonly concerning an issue (ignorance) 2) create confusion thereby creating a desire for true opinion (desire) 3) allow for recollection and with it true opinion (δοξα) (knowledge).
Socrates: In fact we have helped him to some extent towards finding out the right answer, for now not only is he ignorant of it but he will be quite glad to look for it. Up to now he thought he could speak well and fluently, on many occasions and before large audiences, on the subject of a square double the size of a given square, maintaining that it must have a side of double the length.
It is questionable whether Socrates believes knowledge, in a secure sense, is possible or whether we can only approximate true belief? However, I am not an epistemologist.

Can αρετη be taught If αρετη can be taught then it is a kind of knowledge/wisdom (φρονησισ). All virtues involve a doing guided by wisdom. If virtues could be taught there would be teachers of virtues. There are no teachers of virtues (except Sophists). From experience good men cannot teach their progeny to be good (many examples given) thought they should be concerned to do so. Αρετη cannot be taught, it is a matter of true opinion that can be accessed through dialectic.


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