January 21st, 2018
Plato‘s Republic is a platonic dialogue. The way to read these books is to skim through it and find something that jumps out at you. The great thing about these books is that it is a conversation.
The first reading tends to let the book tell you what questions they have; let them tell you and what you should be interested in. When you come back to the book with the wrong questions they will probably tell you answer to those questions. Approach the book by listening to its author. Listen, try not to impose yourself on that person. It’s very similar to a date. You just sit back and listen.
The military tends to break things down into very simple components and be very clear on definitions and on what you are saying. Sometimes that can oversimplify things too much.
Good question, especially with regards to intelligence gathering: Should you go into an environment to gather intelligence without any preconceptions? Or should you have some?
Lecture versus seminar: Lecture is someone talking at you. There is no room to ask questions important to you. Or to question something. Multiple minds bring the mind of author alive. Reading on your own is like eavesdropping or observing — you’ll gradually come to know what is interesting and what is worth noticing.
Find something you like. Use that as entry points into classical works. Whatever you read you’ll eventually get there.
"Great Book Canon": We’re dealing with best minds of human history. Give the author the benefit of the doubt.
Book 1, Plato’s Republic begins with Socrates at port in Athens at a festival where they are introducing a new god. Perhaps because they are losing to Sparta in the Peloponnesus War.
Theme: Philosophy vs politics. Theme of thinking about the role of force ("no, you must stay because we’re stronger than you") and ultimately the role war is playing in this conversation is about justice.
Desire of man to compete and where people stand (during the horse race).
Tyrant is one who can injustice the best.
If someone is not willing to have a dialogue or conversation with you, then the only option is perhaps force.
How do you keep from committing injustice? Sure you need character but you also need money.
Cephalus is happy he is no longer moved by passions (e.g., sex). Ideas of sex and money are timeless. Money and sex are tied to appetite, which have no natural limits. They will never tell you that you have had enough. Therefore, one must have some other means to figuring out how much (e.g., making appetite bounded). How do you make appetite bounded? You are judged in the afterlife. As long as you have one person who has all of them (sex, money) then you have a zero sum game.
Friends are those who agree with each other. Enemies are everyone else. Socrates questions this very notion. Are your friends good because they are your own? Or are they your friends because they are good. Implicit: By nature, the human being is very inclined to assume that whatever is associated with you is good (your own) without evaluating it. No! There is more objective standard of the good where you must measure your own, including your friends. And if they don’t measure up, then they are not your friends. Prejudiced love of your own. If you really love yourself or your own, then you must get beyond prejudice and evaluate so you actually aim to become a good person vs. assuming you are already fine. Some of those people you thought were enemies could in fact be friends. Get beyond prejudice and have solid, real grounds for having real friends could undermine political distinctions.
The Marine Corps: No better friend, no worse enemy. If a guy needs a shootin’, shoot them. If they need a protecting, protect them.
"Just" Warfare: Intermediate positions get passed over by extreme positions. If one were you simply try to evaluate everyone by objective standard (what a good human being is), that would break down political distinctions. You would have enemies in your city and friends in political opposite.
Socrates is open to finding friends in places and situations where others would find enemies. Socrates is always evaluating: What is end game what you are trying to accomplish? (Art of the Advantage)
Why are you trying to harm your enemies? You will make them worse which will make you worse.
Need to follow where end game goes.
Two systems of logic (this makes sense but it doesn’t make sense: contradictory) but rationalize both systems fairly thoroughly. Nature of philosophy to have these conclusions that you accept but don’t accept at the same time.
Justice is by far most powerful.
The best you can do as individual is being a tyrant. Do unjust to citizens but citizens are just. It’s covert. They don’t know it but you do. You take everything from them as a tyrant. This is the best way to live. Laws put there are a convenient lie told by the tyrant to pad their wallet and lifestyle. If that is what justice is, then why are you telling all the men here how it is? If you were a good tyrant, then why would you tell everyone how it is? Socrates catches him in contradiction.
Know the truth about justice and teach it to other people.
Plato’s Republic ends with Thrasymachus: Don’t know your own life.
Questions for Republic:
1) How do I know when my society is at war with itself or peace with itself?
2) What is the standard for identifying what is unjust // lines in the sand?
3) How do you measure harm in terms of justice (qualify or quantify for citizenry or enemies)
What if Glaucon's foot-stool question wasn’t in the Republic?
The School of Athens by Raphael. Image from Wikipedia.org.