34 Matching Annotations
  1. Jul 2022
    1. If this notion of human existence as a unity of participation in both perishing and non-perishing reality sounds odd to modern ears, it is mainly because philosophical and scientific–and consequently popular–thought during the last few centuries has been busy constructing a very different image of the human person. The image of participation has been changed and simplified into an image of two entities: a body, and a mind inside the body that has intelligence and ideas. This is the image that eventually came out of Descartes and Hobbes and other early modem thinkers, and wound up as a portrayal of human beings as mental entities encased in physical entities: a mind-thing imprisoned in a body–thing. Now a mind-thing imprisoned in a body-thing cannot experience participation in the ground of reality. Why not? Because it is imprisoned, isolated in the head. It can only have ideas about it and “project” them out onto reality. What becomes, then of the non-perishing dimension of meaning? Accepting the modem image, we could have faith that we have a relation to non-perishing reality only through first conceiving of a non-perishing reality–let us call it “God”–in the isolation of our bodily-encased minds, and then projecting that conception onto a “beyond” of things, and finally engaging in the desperate procedure of believing that it is real and that we have a connection with it in spite of not knowing anything of the kind. In other words, as long as self-understanding is dominated by this modem image, human consciousness cannot make sense of its own experience of immediate participation in a non-perishing ground of reality. And therefore, it cannot really make sense of its moral striving–since what is the point of the struggle for goodness if goodness is nothing more than temporary private opinion? Thus the modem image of human nature short-circuits the Socratic and Kierkegaardian understanding of existence, and leaves us with the familiar contemporary mess of radical moral relativism. This modern image of human existence is tenacious, though–partly because it is so closely connected to the modem view of what real knowing is, a view that enjoys an almost unassailable status. It might be summarized with extreme brevity as follows. If the mind is a thing encased in the physical body that only knows reality through the mediation, through the channeling, of the physical senses, any valid knowing has to validate itself through the presence of the relevant sense data. And this means that all true knowing is the type of knowing involved in the natural sciences, where empirical verification must take place through quantifiable data. Data that cannot be mathematically measured, such as the data consciousness discovers in its own activity and awareness–for example moral insight–can never be a matter of knowing, merely of opinion. How could the Socratic experience of discovering that the moral autonomy of the soul involves a non-perishing dimension of meaning ever be verified, if the data of sense, quantifiable data, are the only relevant data for affirming truth? The life of Socrates–an exemplary model for over two millennia of the moral liberation of the soul through the catharsis of practicing death–is, in this view, a life based on nothing more substantial than a private irrational belief. So to sum up: what has happened is that the enthronement by modem philosophy and science of an image of human nature as a thingly mind entrapped in a thingly body, has made all symbolizations of a non-perishing dimension of reality non-credible to many people–particularly to the intelligentsia, who emphasize their modem credentials by presenting themselves as the cultured despisers of religion. And, of course, one of the reasons why this modem image is so popular and so resistant to critique is what it appears to promise. If we go back to the founding texts of modernity, to the writings of Descartes, of Bacon, of Hobbes, we find a great optimism. If there is no participation in a mysterious origin of non-perishing meaning, there is no mystery essential to human existence. If there is no such participation, then all knowledge originates only in human consciousness itself. And if there is no primal mystery, and if all meaning is of human creation, we can hope one day to bring nature, human society, and history fully under human control. In his last book, Escape from Evil, Becker wrote: “Hubris means forgetting where the real source of power lies and imagining that it is in oneself (37).” I would suggest that imagining that notions of a non-perishing dimension of meaning are the pure creations of an isolated human consciousness, entails a forgetting of where the real source of consciousness lies: in the experienced mysterious ground of consciousness, which grants us the quite rational opportunity of a free and loving commitment to an enduring dimension of meaning. Of course, in some sense, human awareness of the non-perishing mystery in which it participates remains alive and well, because people keep striving to be moral, and they keep asking questions about that experience. Human questioning will always keep uncovering the eternal dimension of meaning, keep introducing people to the Socratic catharsis, and keep leading people to what Becker called a life of courageous self-realization. But they can be helped to do so by promoting insights like those of Becker on the choice between denying death or facing up to mortality. Like Becker in his chapter on Kierkegaard in The Denial Of Death, what I’ve tried to show is that the problem does not lie in the notion of human participation in imperishable reality. Rather, where the problem lies is in the self-comforting delusion that one possesses eternal meaning, and especially in the measures people take to defend their feeling of righteous invulnerability, especially through aggression. Authentic faith, by contrast, affirms enduring meaning in the context of an open if anxious acceptance of mortality. And so one must conclude that there are two opposites to authentic faith. One is the dogmatic clinging to an immortality project; and the other is the equally dogmatic insistence that enduring meaning is an illusion. Both of these are denials of our real human situation, making up two sides of the same counterfeit coin.

      The essay closes with a critique of the subject / object mind / body framework that now dominates modernity. Socrates, Kierkigaard and Becker's claims, when seen through the lens of Cartesian modernity, are relegated to the margins. materialism denies any legitimacy to such claims. Recent 4E cognition is an attempt to push back on this. Hughes notes that:

      "In his last book, Escape from Evil, Becker wrote: “Hubris means forgetting where the real source of power lies and imagining that it is in oneself (37).” "

    2. Both types of inauthentic existence involve running away from the awareness of death, not allowing the fact of death to penetrate into consciousness, not facing up to the human situation, and not undergoing the crucial moral catharsis. So Kierkegaard, Becker, and Socrates all agree: the denial of death is indeed at the center of human inauthenticity. Kierkegaard and Socrates would further insist that authentic human living–the open embrace of life structured by death–can only be rejected or embraced to begin with, because perishing meaning and non-perishing meaning co-constitute conscious existence.

      Here we find Kierkegaard, Becker and Socrates all in agreement. Both types of inauthentic existence involves running away from death and disallowing the fact of our own death from penetrating into consciousness, and avoiding our human existential condition.

      This also prevents us from reaching the next stage of moral catharsis. Denial of death lay at the center of human inauthenticity.

      Hughes closes by saying that an open embrace of life structured by death is embraced when perishing and non-perishing meaning co-constitute our conscious existence. This is similar to the Buddhist principle of the middle way and the Stop Reset Go maxim:

      To be or not to be, that is the question To be AND not to be that is the answer

    3. As Eric Voegelin puts it, “The life of Socrates was the great model of the liberation of the soul through the invasion of death into earthly existence” (Plato, 43). And we come across one of the most memorable formulations of this liberating catharsis in the dialogue Phaedo, where Socrates describes it as “practicing death.” Socrates says that this is what the true philosopher does: practices death. Of course all kinds of people call themselves philosophers. But a real philosopher is easily defined: it is someone who truly loves wisdom. And since wisdom is the ever-deepening understanding of how to live a truly good life, no one can be a lover of wisdom except by continually dying to the perishable and focusing on what is truly lasting, letting the fact and possibilities of death penetrate the soul. True philosophers, Socrates says, “make dying their profession,” and so to them of all people death is least upsetting. And if someone is distressed at the prospect of dying, Socrates concludes, it is “proof enough that he is a lover not of wisdom but of the body (Phaedo, 67d-68c).”

      Socrates holds that the true philosopher loves wisdom and practices death. Socrates says "true philosophers make dying their profession."

    4. full acknowledgement of mortality and perishability can only take place through a kind of psychological re-orientation, in which trusting affirmation of a non-perishing ground of goodness becomes the ordering principle of one’s life. This is the only way we can break free of the power of those bodily and social distractions which otherwise keep us enslaved and turned away from the good.

      Socrates guiding principle in life.

    5. when a person does take goodness seriously, he or she finds that this is only possible on the assumption that goodness is not ephemeral–not an illusion, not just a reality constituted by personal opinion. To orient one’s life by the compass of a real commitment to knowing and doing what is good only happens through assuming that goodness is really real, enduringly real: that there is a moral dimension of meaning that does not come and go like flesh, or reputation, or money, or power.

      Socrates says that to take goodness seriously, we must hold that it is enduring.

    6. it will be worthwhile to develop his idea of a courageous breaking away from culturally-supported immortality systems by looking back in history to a character who many people have thought of as an epitome of a self-realized person, someone who neither accepts his culture’s standardized hero-systems, nor fears death: the philosopher Socrates. When Socrates was brought to trial in 399 BC before a jury of 501 Athenian citizens on charges that included impiety and corrupting the youth, he disappointed most of the jurors (and irritated many of them) by not petitioning for leniency, or appearing intimidated by the penalties he might face if found guilty. And when the jury condemned him to death, he remained composed, and spoke carefully about the consequences of the judgment first for himself, and then for Athens. Through Plato we understand that Socrates’s typical tranquility and self-control never left him throughout his month in prison and up through the final minutes of drinking the hemlock. The eyewitness report has it that he drank the cup of hemlock “calmly and easily,” and had to chastise his friends for their weeping. Combined with other testimony about Socrates’s bravery as a soldier–and the record of his dangerous refusal to obey what he considered to be immoral orders from the leaders of a temporary govemment-all this adds up to the portrait of someone very much at ease with his mortality. What accounts for it? Did Socrates’ courage come from a psychological denial of mortality through embrace of some “immortality system?” Let us look at what he had to say about death to the jurors at his trial immediately after his condemnation. “Death,” he said to them, “is one of two things. Either it is annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or … it is really a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another (Plato, Apology, 40c-d).” Those are in fact the only alternatives: maybe its nothingness; maybe it isn’t. Socrates shows himself prepared for either eventuality. Note well: there is no dogmatic assertion of an immortal afterlife here. An assertion like that would, after all, contradict Socrates’ first principle of conduct, which is to never assume that one knows what one doesn’t know. Earlier in his defense speech Socrates had stated the matter about death carefully: “To be afraid of death is only another form of thinking that one is wise when one is not; it is to think that one knows what one does not know …. [Not] possessing any real knowledge of what comes after death, I am also conscious that I do not possess it (29a-b).”

      Socrates confrontation of death without fear is an example of how to live authentically with death, without the need for immortality projects.

  2. Jun 2022
    1. Maybe it’s time we talk about it?

      Yes, long overdue!

      Coming to terms with potential near term extinction of our species, and many others along with it, is a macro-level reflection of the personal and inescapable, existential crisis that all human, and other living beings have to contend with, our own personal, individual mortality. Our personal death can also be interpreted as an extinction event - all appearances are extinguished.

      The self-created eco-crisis, with accelerating degradation of nature cannot help but touch a nerve because it is now becoming a daily reminder of our collective vulnerability, Mortality salience of this scale can create enormous amounts of anxiety. We can no longer hide from our mortality when the news is blaring large scale changes every few weeks. It leaves us feeling helpless...just like we are at the time of our own personal death.

      In a world that is in denial of death, as pointed out by Ernest Becker in his 1973 Pulitzer-prize winning book of the same title, the signs of a climate system and biosphere in collapse is a frightening reminder of our own death.

      Straying from the natural wonderment each human being is born with, we already condition ourselves to live with an existential dread as Becker pointed out:

      "Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever."

      Beckerian writer Glenn Hughes explores a way to authentically confront this dread, citing Socrates as an example. Three paragraphs from Hughes article point this out, citing Socrates as exemplary:

      "Now Becker doesn’t always emphasize this second possibility of authentic faith. One can get the impression from much of his work that any affirmation of enduring meaning is simply a denial of death and the embrace of a lie. But I believe the view expressed in the fifth chapter of The Denial of Death is his more nuanced and genuine position. And I think it will be worthwhile to develop his idea of a courageous breaking away from culturally-supported immortality systems by looking back in history to a character who many people have thought of as an epitome of a self-realized person, someone who neither accepts his culture’s standardized hero-systems, nor fears death: the philosopher Socrates."

      "Death is a mystery. Maybe it is annihilation. One simply can’t know otherwise. Socrates is psychologically open to his physical death and possible utter annihilation. But still this does not unnerve him. And if we pursue the question: why not?–we do not have to look far in Plato’s portrait of Socrates for some answers. Plato understood, and captured in his Dialogues, a crucial element in the shaping of Socrates’ character: his willingness to let the fact of death fully penetrate his consciousness. This experience of being fully open to death is so important to Socrates that he makes a point of using it to define his way of life, the life of a philosophos–a “lover of wisdom.” " "So we have come to the crucial point. The Socratic catharsis is a matter of letting death penetrate the self. It is the acceptance of the perishing of everything that will perish. In this acceptance a person imaginatively experiences the death of the body and the possibility of complete annihilation. This is “to ‘taste” death with the lips of your living body [so] that you … know emotionally that you are a creature who will die; “it is the passage into nothing” in which “a corner is turned within one.” And it is this very experience, and no other, that enables a person to act with genuine moral freedom and autonomy, guided by morals and not just attraction and impulses."


  3. Jun 2020
  4. Dec 2019
    1. Socrates and his prediction that writing would destroy the Greek tradition of dialectic. Socrates’ primary concern was that people would write things down instead of remembering them. “This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories,” Plato quotes him as saying. “They will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”

      The dialectic process is important particularly in the context of human to computer communication and synthesis. Here Socrates articulates the importance of memory to this process and how writing undermines it. If there is an asymmetry between the mind of the writer and reader the written work provides method of diffusing information from one mind to another. This balance of the mind is true of human to computer interaction as well. We need to expand our memory capacity if we are to be expand the reasoning capacity of computers. But instead we are using computers to substitute our memories. We neglect memory so we can't reason; humans and computers alike.

  5. Feb 2019
    1. She asserts that nature is the best teacher of clo{1uencc. Rules help only a little, and only if they have been <lcrivcd from nature.

      This has echoes of Plato in it, where Socrates asks repeatedly whether rhetoric can be taught.

    1. explanation ofthe tenns commonly ends the controversy

      Hence why definition is needed to start, not once the argument's already gathered steam (as Locke also points out). While I find merit to this, I dislike agreeing with anything Socratic/Platonic on principle.

    1. before they went any further on in this dispute, they would first examine and estab-lish amongst them, what the word liquor signi-fied.

      Thanks, Socrates (she said sarcastically).

  6. Jan 2019
    1. Socrates

      Via Socrates Biography -- Britannica "Socrates was widely considered to be a Sophist, though he did not teach for money and his aims were entirely different from theirs. Although there is a late tradition according to which Pythagoras invented the word philosopher, it was certainly through Socrates—who insisted that he possessed no wisdom but was striving for it—that the term came into general use and was later applied to all earlier serious thinkers."

    2. Plato's dialogue

      this is referring to the dialogues of philosopher Plato, who was a student of Socrates, Plato was in turn the teacher of Aristotle

  7. Jul 2015
    1. . By choosing to live in Athens, a citizen is implicitly endorsing the Laws, and is willing to abide by them. Socrates, more than most, should be in accord with this contract, as he has lived a happy seventy years fully content with the Athenian way of life.
  8. Jan 2014
    1. Socrates was concerned with reflective thought: the ability to think deeply about things, to question and examine every statement. He thought that reading was experiential, that it would not lead to reflection.
    2. Questioning and examination are the tools of reflection: Hear an idea, ponder it, question it, modify it, explore its limitations. When the idea is presented by a person, the audience can interrupt, ask questions, probe to get at the underlying assumptions. But the author doesn’t come along with a book, so how could the book be questioned if it couldn’t answer back? This is what bothered Socrates.

      This is what bothered socrates.

    3. Socrates, Plato tells us, argued that books would destroy thought.

      Books as destroyers of thought

  9. Oct 2013
    1. Appetite is the cause of all actions that appear pleasant. Habit, whether acquired by mere familiarity or by effort, belongs to the class of pleasant things, for there are many actions not naturally pleasant which men perform with pleasure, once they have become used to them. To sum up then, all actions due to ourselves either are or seem to be either good or pleasant. Moreover, as all actions due to ourselves are done voluntarily and actions not due to ourselves are done involuntarily, it follows that all voluntary actions must either be or seem to be either good or pleasant; for I reckon among goods escape from evils or apparent evils and the exchange of a greater evil for a less (since these things are in a sense positively desirable), and likewise I count among pleasures escape from painful or apparently painful things and the exchange of a greater pain for a less.

      At odds with Socrates (Plato's "Gorgias") again, however Aristotle's view of things sounds much more realistic.

    1. For all advice to do things or not to do them is concerned with happiness and with the things that make for or against it; whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.

      This reminds me of Socrates in Plato's "Gorgias." Except that he advised people to only partake in things that make them happy because they are good or beneficial and not to partake in things good/beneficial because they make the person happy (or something along those lines).

  10. Sep 2013
    1. Rhetoric is useful (1) because things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites, so that if the decisions of judges are not what they ought to be, the defeat must be due to the speakers themselves, and they must be blamed accordingly.

      Coincides with what Gorgias was presumably attempting to say to Socrates.

  11. caseyboyle.net caseyboyle.net
    1. For the truth is, Socrates, that you, who pretend to be engaged in the pursuit of truth, are appealing now to the popular and vulgar notions of right, which are not natural, but only conventional

      I see Scorates as very opposite. I know it's part of the way the questions are asked, but Gorgias was definitive in his responses whereas Socrates is all over the place. I find this disagreement falls inline with the methods of questioning

    2. I mean to say, does he really know anything of what is good and evil, base or honourable, just or unjust in them; or has he only a way with the ignorant of persuading them that he not knowing is to be esteemed to know more about these things than some one else who knows?

      Dangers of persuasive rhetoric

    3. And I am afraid to point this out to you, lest you should think that I have some animosity against you, and that I speak, not for the sake of discovering the truth, but from jealousy of you. Now if you are one of my sort, I should like to cross-examine you, but if not I will let you alone. And what is my sort? you will ask. I am one of those who are very willing to be refuted if I say anything which is not true, and very willing to refute any one else who says what is not true, and quite as ready to be refuted as to refute; for I hold that this is the greater gain of the two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great evil than of curing another.

      Socrates again showing concern with ascertaining truth (love of truth/knowledge). Interested in a dialectic, not a debate concerned with being right.

    4. SOCRATES: Then rhetoric is not the only artificer of persuasion? GORGIAS: True.

      Whammy! Socrates leading Gorgias into a contradiction.

    5. Then hear me, Gorgias, for I am quite sure that if there ever was a man who entered on the discussion of a matter from a pure love of knowing the truth

      Philosophy = love of knowledge = rhetoric? (as per Socrates)

    6. Then why, if you call rhetoric the art which treats of discourse, and all the other arts treat of discourse, do you not call them arts of rhetoric

      Socrates was known for his mistrust of so-called "experts". He would ask someone a series of questions that would eventually lead them into a contradiction.

    7. Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and a maker of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric concerned: I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you would reply (would you not?), with the making of garments?

      Socrates making his question as explicit and specific as possible. He may be anticipating some indirect answer.

    8. That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter method now, and the longer one at some other time

      Direct speech = athenian spirit?

    9. in my admiring mind

      a cute turn of phraze

    10. to set it on its legs

      to give it ground, in contemporary terms, since our teachers no longer travel and teach door to door in the same way. Yet, "to give it legs" still works for our times.