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What does Plato mean (in The Republic) when he identifies that moderation (in

What does Plato mean (in The Republic) when he identifies that moderation (in the case of the city in speech) is identified with the agreement over who rules the city? Where is the moderation in that? I really don't understand that word in the context of this metaphor.

Plato has a number of things to say about moderation in the Republic, but I think the most important one is where he associates moderation with the proper functioning of the appetitive part of the soul. The good news about that part is that it is responsible for the basic functions that keep us alive, such as eating and drinking, and also make us inclined to reproduce. The bad news is that the appetites have a tendency to excess, which--if not prevented by the ruling part of the soul (the reasoning part)--will lead us to do things that are not all things considered really good for us. Hence, moderation in a person will be the result of the "agreement" on the part of the appetitive part to the rule of the reasoning part. The same goes in a city: left to themselves, the craftsmen will have a tendency to excess and dissolution, but when ruled by Plato's philosopher-rulers, the proper functioning of this "appetitive" class of people will allow the whole state to become moderate. Unless and until they agree to allow the best rulers actually to rule, there will always be a high degree of risk that the state will slide into immoderation.

I hope this helps!

Plato has a number of things to say about moderation in the Republic, but I think the most important one is where he associates moderation with the proper functioning of the appetitive part of the soul. The good news about that part is that it is responsible for the basic functions that keep us alive, such as eating and drinking, and also make us inclined to reproduce. The bad news is that the appetites have a tendency to excess, which--if not prevented by the ruling part of the soul (the reasoning part)--will lead us to do things that are not all things considered really good for us. Hence, moderation in a person will be the result of the "agreement" on the part of the appetitive part to the rule of the reasoning part. The same goes in a city: left to themselves, the craftsmen will have a tendency to excess and dissolution, but when ruled by Plato's philosopher-rulers, the proper functioning of this "appetitive" class of people will allow the whole state to become moderate. Unless and until they...

Where on the political spectrum are Aristotle's political views?

Where on the political spectrum are Aristotle's political views?

Aristotle is usually classified as a "classical republican," which is more misleading than helpful, given contemporary American political party names. A "classical republican" is typically contrasted with a "classical liberal," which only makes matters worse, given contemporary political (ab)uses of the "L-word."

So here is a quick-and-dirty (read: not entirely adequate) brief account of what these terms are supposed to mean. A classical liberal is one who tends to think in terms of maintaining limits on the government's power to interfere in individual people's liberties. (A term related here that is also important in contemporary rhetoric is "libertarian.") Classical republicans tend to think in terms of what would make the best and most effective (or most admirable or choiceworthy) constitution, such that the entire welfare of the community is the primary consideration.

Anyway, for better than a quick-and-dirty, look up these terms in the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy (see the lower right link on this page).

In contemporary political debates, no sides (right, left or center) map perfectly onto this distinction. In general, considerations of such things as "basic human rights" tend to fall on the classical liberal side. Some scholars have tried to find elements of such thinking in Aristotle, but that remains a very controversial position among scholars. As I say, most regard Aristotle as much more of a classical republican. In general, however, I would characterize most political discourse in American politics as mostly saturated with classically liberal elements and with attempts to shape governments with concerns for individual liberties prominently (if not always or even mostly entirely honestly, I suspect) on display.

OK, so you are probably trying to figure out how I have answered your question. So let me be more honest: I don't think there is any very clean answer to your question. The contemporary political spectrum is far too much a thing of the present to get any clear assessment of where Aristotle would fit. We could probably do a better job on specific issues, but even here, I think that many of the issues that drive contemporary politics are simply alien to the theories that Aristotle advanced, so that applications of his theories to those issues would be a matter of considerable speculation and controversy.

Aristotle is usually classified as a "classical republican," which is more misleading than helpful, given contemporary American political party names. A "classical republican" is typically contrasted with a "classical liberal," which only makes matters worse, given contemporary political (ab)uses of the "L-word." So here is a quick-and-dirty (read: not entirely adequate) brief account of what these terms are supposed to mean. A classical liberal is one who tends to think in terms of maintaining limits on the government's power to interfere in individual people's liberties. (A term related here that is also important in contemporary rhetoric is "libertarian.") Classical republicans tend to think in terms of what would make the best and most effective (or most admirable or choiceworthy) constitution, such that the entire welfare of the community is the primary consideration. Anyway, for better than a quick-and-dirty, look up these terms in the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy (see the lower...

I've heard, in the pre-Internet era of the 80s and early 90s, that because of

I've heard, in the pre-Internet era of the 80s and early 90s, that because of academic specialization and professionalization in philosophy, one would be really hard pressed to discover a non-academic personal kind of philosophy like the kind found in Kierkegaard's journals and self-published writings in the 20th century. But now with the Internet in the 21st century, it seems that non-academics can put forth one's philosophy in blogs, websites and forums and even self-publish their own philosophy books and ebooks on online publishing sites very inexpensively. So, my question is can one discover a great philosopher like Kierkegaard in our digital Internet era? And more importantly, will we?

I assume there will be non-academic thinkers who are regarded by future generations (or even by others in the current generation) as great philosophers by some. As Aristotle said long ago, honor depends on those who bestow it, and so if enough people think that someone's blog or whatever is loaded with "great philosophy" then so be it. Moreover, I see no reason to think that even some groups of academics will find some the writings (or bloggings) of some non-academic worthy of the title, "great philosophy."

But I also think that we may be talking past one another here. For there are certain fields of philosophy that have become extremely technical, and I regard it as very unlikely that anyone who is not academically trained in these areas will be able to provide important advances in such areas. But of course, there might still come to be some self-taught genius who does just that. So who knows?

I suppose one thing that would be worth thinking more about would be what characteristics make some philosophy or philosopher "great." Speaking just for myself, it is not just obvious that I would call Kierkegaard a "great philosopher." I can't think of anything that I found in his writings that I would regard as "great philosophy," and at least some of it struck me as...well, at best a bit strange. But what do I know?

I assume there will be non-academic thinkers who are regarded by future generations (or even by others in the current generation) as great philosophers by some. As Aristotle said long ago, honor depends on those who bestow it, and so if enough people think that someone's blog or whatever is loaded with "great philosophy" then so be it. Moreover, I see no reason to think that even some groups of academics will find some the writings (or bloggings) of some non-academic worthy of the title, "great philosophy." But I also think that we may be talking past one another here. For there are certain fields of philosophy that have become extremely technical, and I regard it as very unlikely that anyone who is not academically trained in these areas will be able to provide important advances in such areas. But of course, there might still come to be some self-taught genius who does just that. So who knows? I suppose one thing that would be worth thinking more about would be what characteristics make...

In the Platonic theory of forms, one could imagine a thing participating in many

In the Platonic theory of forms, one could imagine a thing participating in many different forms at once. E.g. a large oak tree could participate in tree-ness, oak-tree-ness, bark-ness, leaven-ness, green-ness, brown-ness, large-ness, beauty, etc. One could imagine this could go on ad infinitum (i.e. ever more specification leading to ever more forms). Where is the limit? Or is there no limit? Or in reality, is there really only one form? (The Good?) or to put it another way the Form of "being." It might remind one of Parmenides....it is or it is not.... It seems to me that sensible things either participate in infinite forms or one form. Thoughts? Lou, New York

I think the only really honest answer to your question is that Plato is never quite as clear about this issue as we wish he were. On the one hand, as you say, there seems to be no obvious limit on how many Forms a given particular might participate in--after all, something can be not just a good image of F-ness, but also a bad image (and hence participant in) G-ness.

But maybe it helps that nothing in the theory of Forms (such as it is as a "theory," as opposed to something more like a hypothesis) allows participation that would create category mistakes (e.g. "The lion sleeps greenly" or "Putting the number 2 on a diet"), so there is presumably some limit on how many Forms can apply to a given thing.

Anyway (back to the really honest answer), your question shows one of many reasons why few today find the "theory of Forms" adequate as a metaphysical theory.

I think the only really honest answer to your question is that Plato is never quite as clear about this issue as we wish he were. On the one hand, as you say, there seems to be no obvious limit on how many Forms a given particular might participate in--after all, something can be not just a good image of F-ness, but also a bad image (and hence participant in) G-ness. But maybe it helps that nothing in the theory of Forms (such as it is as a "theory," as opposed to something more like a hypothesis) allows participation that would create category mistakes (e.g. "The lion sleeps greenly" or "Putting the number 2 on a diet"), so there is presumably some limit on how many Forms can apply to a given thing. Anyway (back to the really honest answer), your question shows one of many reasons why few today find the "theory of Forms" adequate as a metaphysical theory.

When did philosophers first start arguing about free will and determinism and

When did philosophers first start arguing about free will and determinism and who were they?

I think that is quite right. I would simply highlight that the debate over freedom and determinism came to an important point in the 17th century with Ralph Cudworth when philosophers came (for the first time, perhaps) to articulate radical notions of freedom that involve a person engaging in a kind of self-transcendence, an ability to step back from her or his current character and engage in a kind of self-creation, making choices that would transform a person involving the formation of a new character.

Aristotle raises this issue in On Interpretation 9, but simply assumes that we have free will. The ancient Stoics believed that the only freedom of will that we have is the freedom to assent or dissent from the way things actually are. In other words, we have no free will over how things actually happen in the world. I believe (subject to correction!) that these were the first philosophersto address the question of free will directly.

I am reading The Republic by Plato right now. I am now on the 8th book of The

I am reading The Republic by Plato right now. I am now on the 8th book of The Republic. I have read that Plato enumerates the theory of forms in the 7th book. Yet when I read the 7th book I found his theory of forms very unlike what I have heard about this theory. According to how the theory of forms has been taught to me a horse or a person corresponds to the form of a horse or person. It seemed like Plato what actually said was very different from that. I admit that I had a difficult time following Plato's arguments in book 7 but I am curious if I am the only person who finds a discrepancy between how Plato is taught and what he actually says.

The Forms make their first appearance in Book V, and are also significantly represented in the metaphysics of the Divided Line passage in Book VI. I agree, however, that they also appear in the theory of higher education Plato discusses in Book VII.

I can't speak to how Plato's theory of Forms is taught, because I suspect that it is taught very differently by different teachers. But there are very good scholarly works on Plato's Forms. I recommend Richard Patterson's Image and Reality in Plato's Metaphysics (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1985). I also think a good review is provided in Henry Teloh's The Development of Plato's Metaphysics (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981), Chapter 3.

The Forms make their first appearance in Book V, and are also significantly represented in the metaphysics of the Divided Line passage in Book VI. I agree, however, that they also appear in the theory of higher education Plato discusses in Book VII. I can't speak to how Plato's theory of Forms is taught, because I suspect that it is taught very differently by different teachers. But there are very good scholarly works on Plato's Forms. I recommend Richard Patterson's Image and Reality in Plato's Metaphysics (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1985). I also think a good review is provided in Henry Teloh's The Development of Plato's Metaphysics (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981), Chapter 3.

How would Kant resolve the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?

How would Kant resolve the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?

Kant emphasized what he called the "categorical imperative," for which he gave two formulations. The formulation that seems most plainly to apply here is that we should be able to universalize into a maxim whatever decision we make in individual moral decisions. In this case, the question is whether we would be willing to universalize into a maxim that the policy of the military sshould be "don't ask, don't tell" for anyone of any gender and any sexuality. But it seems that we do not have such a policy for heterosexuals, and as far as I can tell, no one would think that such a policy would sensibly apply to heterosexuals. So it sseems we cannot universalize this policy, in which case the policy looks, on Kantian grounds, to be prejudicial.

Kant emphasized what he called the "categorical imperative," for which he gave two formulations. The formulation that seems most plainly to apply here is that we should be able to universalize into a maxim whatever decision we make in individual moral decisions. In this case, the question is whether we would be willing to universalize into a maxim that the policy of the military sshould be "don't ask, don't tell" for anyone of any gender and any sexuality. But it seems that we do not have such a policy for heterosexuals, and as far as I can tell, no one would think that such a policy would sensibly apply to heterosexuals. So it sseems we cannot universalize this policy, in which case the policy looks, on Kantian grounds, to be prejudicial.

Was it Socrates who first said we should all question authority?

Was it Socrates who first said we should all question authority?

Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being" (Plato, Apology 38a) and plainly applied that maxim in questioning everyone he encountered, often those in positions of authority (see Plato, Apology 21b-e). As far as I know, he never expicitly said "question authority," but as I say, he certainly lived as if this was one of his beliefs.

Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being" (Plato, Apology 38a) and plainly applied that maxim in questioning everyone he encountered, often those in positions of authority (see Plato, Apology 21b-e). As far as I know, he never expicitly said "question authority," but as I say, he certainly lived as if this was one of his beliefs.

Hello,

Hello, I have a practical question. I have started reading Hegel. Maybe you could recomend some guides to Hegel's philosophy? Thank you.

I am not a Hegel scholar, but my colleague, who is one, recommends:

Tom Rockmore, Before & After Hegel: A Historical Introduction to Hegel's Thought (University of California Press, 1993), and

Frederick Beiser, Hegel (Routledge, 2005)

Happy hunting!

I am not a Hegel scholar, but my colleague, who is one, recommends: Tom Rockmore, Before & After Hegel: A Historical Introduction to Hegel's Thought (University of California Press, 1993), and Frederick Beiser, Hegel (Routledge, 2005) Happy hunting!

After discussing Socrates and his views on the state in Crito, a question came

After discussing Socrates and his views on the state in Crito, a question came to mind. How would Socrates behave in 1930's Nazi Germany when the time came to join the military? Would his sense of right and wrong win out over his loyalty to the state? Or would he feel too great a responsibility to the state, as he clearly seems to in Crito, to put his personal choices and morality over it? Thanks, Jan-Erik

The question you pose continues to be debated by Socrates/Plato scholars, so you should probably regard the answer I will give as a controversial one. On the one hand, as scholars who wish to resist the "authoritarian" reading of the Crito insist, Socrates clearly says that it is unjust to harm another, and that one who commits injustice actually harms himself most of all. But this can only serve to avoid the authoritarian reading if we beg the question of whether Socrates would believe that refusing to serve an unjust regime was what justice required.

Here is something else we know about Socrates: He actually did serve--several times--in the Athenian army during the Pelopponesian War. On at least one of the campaigns we know he was a part of, Athens was attempting to kill all of the inhabitants of Potidaia. One might expect a moralist like Socrates to have some qualms about genocide!

Socrates plainly recognizes that many things decided by the Athenians--including in particular decisions made by due process according to Athenian Law--were wrong. But the view he argues in the Crito seems to be that as a citizen he should obey the law (although he gives some indication that this is binding only provisional upon the legal system being one that one has antecedently accepted, and where one has also decided not to leave the state). The only way I can think he would regard such obedience as consistent with his prohibition against ever doing injustice is if he thinks that it is never unjust to obey a valid law of a constitutional state, even when the law itself commands what is unjust. presumably, the way this works is that the responsibility for the injustice, in such cases, does not lie with the citizen who obeys, but rather with those responsible for passing the law.

So, all this seems to indicate to me that Socrates would have been a good citizen--like so many of the German people who were not happy with the Nazis, but who served in the military anyway, because they supposed it was their civic responsibility. At some point, of course, we might also expect Socrates to find the increasing roguishness of the Nazi regime to force hin to reconsider his "agreement" with the state, in which case, he would think it better to leave than to continue to obey.

The question you pose continues to be debated by Socrates/Plato scholars, so you should probably regard the answer I will give as a controversial one. On the one hand, as scholars who wish to resist the "authoritarian" reading of the Crito insist, Socrates clearly says that it is unjust to harm another, and that one who commits injustice actually harms himself most of all. But this can only serve to avoid the authoritarian reading if we beg the question of whether Socrates would believe that refusing to serve an unjust regime was what justice required. Here is something else we know about Socrates: He actually did serve--several times--in the Athenian army during the Pelopponesian War. On at least one of the campaigns we know he was a part of, Athens was attempting to kill all of the inhabitants of Potidaia. One might expect a moralist like Socrates to have some qualms about genocide! Socrates plainly recognizes that many things decided by the Athenians--including in particular...

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