PLATO: The Republic [Book X]

In Book X of Plato’s Republic, Socrates banishes all artists from his ideal State. He argues that the creations of art are farthest removed from truth; and therefore, art turns the mind of the spectator away from truth and toward the realm of becoming. For example, there are several instances of tables in the world, but only one idea of a table. A table-maker can make a table, but he cannot make the idea of a table. Even farther removed from the true idea of a table than the table of a table-maker is the painting of a table. “Tables, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend them: God, the maker of the table, and the painter.” Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book IX]

In Book IX of Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes the character of a tyrant. All men, Socrates admits, have a lawless and beastly nature. This darker nature displays itself during dreams while the rational part is sleeping. “Then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or drink, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime a man may not be ready to commit.” The difference between tyrants and other men is that tyrants do not reign in the wild beast when they awaken, but rather encourage it. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book VIII]

In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates moves from the discussion of the ideal State of aristocracy to a discussion of the four unjust types of States – timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Because the natures of States resemble the natures of the men that comprise them, an examination of unjust States will illuminate the natures of unjust men. We can then compare the happiness of the just man to the happiness of the unjust man. “And we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or to prefer justice.” Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book VII]

Book VII of Plato’s Republic contains the most famous metaphor of philosophy – the Allegory of the Cave. Socrates requests that his audience imagine a group of prisoners chained since birth to the bottom of a cave. The prisoners can only see the wall in front of them. They cannot turn their heads to either side. Behind the prisoners, puppeteers move statues in front of a fire. The statues cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners speak of these shadows as we speak of our world. They call the shadows – horses, dogs, men, etc. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book VI]

In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, Socrates explains why people reproach philosophers as useless and evil. He draws an analogy between a ship with a mutinous crew and a society with rebellious citizens. The mutinous crew members of a ship violently struggle with one another to become captain, but not one of them possesses knowledge of navigation. The crew considers the captain, who does possess such wisdom, a “star-gazer” because the crew does not realize that the constellations provide an excellent guide to navigate the ocean. Just as the crew’s ignorance of navigation causes them to unjustly mutiny against the captain, so too does the citizens’ ignorance of statesmanship cause them to rebel against true philosophers. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book V]

In Book V of Plato’s Republic, Socrates asserts that men and women ought to receive the same education and ought to fulfill the same roles within society. In the context of Ancient Greece, where women are prohibited from receiving an education and participating in business and politics, this is a radical notion. Socrates admits that men and women have different natures, and that different natures ought to have different pursuits. Nevertheless, he concludes that the difference between men and women – primarily physical strength – does not restrict women from participating in society as guardians, laborers, or even soldiers. Furthermore, it is in the best interest of the State for both the men and the women to be as good as possible; and therefore, both the men and the women must be educated. Continue reading

PLATO: The Republic [Book IV]

In Book IV of Plato’s Republic, Socrates and his interlocutors finally complete their creation of the ideal State. Because the perfect State possesses all virtues, Socrates resolves to identify the four primary virtues – wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice – within the State, and then draw an analogy between the just State and the just man. Continue reading

Voltaire: Candide – Analysis of the Enlightenment

“Let’s work without speculating; it’s the only way of making life bearable.” This sentence is found at the end of Voltaire’s novel, Candide. Written during the Enlightenment, the book is a scathing criticism of the most cherished ideal of the period – that the power of reason will lead humanity to happiness. In this video, we will discuss Voltaire’s attack on philosophical speculation, and his support for a life based on practical concerns. Continue reading

NIETZSCHE: On Suffering – Analysis

Many of the wisest men have regarded pain and suffering as objections to life itself. Socrates, for example, railed against life, and he urged his followers to practice death. Many religious leaders promise to the faithful an eternal afterlife free from pain – rendering this earthly existence as an evil that must be endured. But Nietzsche is different. “I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been.” In this video we will explain why Nietzsche valued suffering and why he desired more of it. Continue reading

Aristophanes: The Clouds

The Clouds, written by the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, is a work of Old Comedy. Old Comedy is a comedic genre that utilizes satire, caricature, and vulgar dialogue to ridicule public figures, politics, ideas, trends, and institutions. The drama is very amusing and entertaining, but it also expresses serious concern about the radical new ideas arising in Athens at the time of the play. Aristophanes chiefly focuses on the new ideas espoused by Socrates and by the Sophists, and emphasizes the threat these new ideas pose to traditional values and morals. Continue reading