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Plato – It’s NOT all Greek to me! (I think…)

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I usually wait until after I’m done with my school Discussion Boards, Explications, Essays, Feedback and such to write up here on my blog. Well, I’m doing a bit different. Maybe by scrawling a few things out here, I can kind of organize the thoughts and concepts Plato presents in his two works Gorgias and Phaedrus. Those were my two readings for ENG555. I read Gorgias the week before class started and it gave me a headache. I read Phaedrus over the last two days and, you guessed it, it gave me a headache. I can sit and read Alexander Bain’s dictionary-like English Composition and Rhetoric – A Manual. I read aloud Arthur Schnitzler’s Fraulein Else, at least half of it to Kimber last night – I should have gotten the German version – just to share with her an example of “stream-of-consciousness.” Again, I digress….

Plato, through Socarates, is trying to make the point in Gorgias that rhetoric is a powerful tool. As such, it may be used for good or for evil. Rhetoric has to have context and must be based on the minutest facts to which an argument/discussion/concept may be broken down.  After the matter is reduced to its smallest particles, it must be rejoined. If what results matches or improves the initial point, then the exercise has been successful and the argument/discussion/concept is valid. Otherwise it is invalid.

Plato’s premise is similar throughout Phaedrus, but Socrates examines the good and bad aspects of love and how that affects what a speaker, or writer, is trying to say. Love in this discourse includes the type between lovers and friends. Here again, Socrates points out that Love has power to do good or evil, depending on the intent of the one in love. He makes a fascinating point that a lover will do everything to control their lover and this manifests in jealousy, envy and ultimately becomes hatred because he cannot possess what he originally loved. True love is aimed at what we and our respective lover perceive each as capable of becoming.

For instance – a person says “I love vanilla ice cream.” Their love can take one of two forms. They can love vanilla ice cream to the point that they persecute others for NOT loving vanilla ice cream, but then their lives become miserable because they have a constant state of conflict in their life. The conflict eventually causes them to resent and then HATE vanilla ice cream, which was the very thing that launched them into the fray in the first place.  The second form that love may take is for the ANTICIPATION of the taste, coldness and texture of the vanilla ice cream. They still love it, but their love is framed in the context of the joy it brings. So, Socrates makes the point that we love those things that bring us joy and enjoyment and freedom.

Socrates applies all the concepts and addresses them to politicians as well. Consider our elected officials – they tell us so much about what good THEY will do for US. That’s an impossibility. The people are the ones who have to do good for themselves. Once elected, the politician flatters those whose favors he seeks and gains by it – this was Socrates’ point in Gorgias. The people are left standing in the cold with that person they “loved” and elected becoming the object of scorn because the politician has turned from them. AND – if you’ve bothered to read this far – it does not matter what political party, left, right, up, down, Cuthulu, Spaghetti-Monster, Church of the Sub-Genius, Scientologist, or anything else, once the politician becomes elected to office, he deserts us – he has to. Apply Socrates’ argument towards them – they LOVE the people, gain what they want, then the people become odious because they expect loyalty – it cannot happen. This was his point in Phaedrus.

I hope this made some shred of sense to someone out there. If not, please comment, tell me where I went wrong and maybe we’ll have a Socratic discourse about it!

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2 Comments

  1. Quo says:

    I enjoyed your posting. My head hurts, too. Plato is not necessarily my cup of tea but reading articles on him, and quotes by him, I loved.

    Quo

    Like

  2. Marlen says:

    I couldn’t help but think of religion while reading this passage, Richard. We can take out vanilla ice cream and instead replace it with the object of reverence, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, an Ancestor, Tao, etc: “For instance – a person says “I love vanilla ice cream.” Their love can take one of two forms. They can love vanilla ice cream to the point that they persecute others for NOT loving vanilla ice cream, but then their lives become miserable because they have a constant state of conflict in their life. The conflict eventually causes them to resent and then HATE vanilla ice cream, which was the very thing that launched them into the fray in the first place. The second form that love may take is for the ANTICIPATION of the taste, coldness and texture of the vanilla ice cream. They still love it, but their love is framed in the context of the joy it brings. So, Socrates makes the point that we love those things that bring us joy and enjoyment and freedom.”

    Like

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