The Corner

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2014 by u2isgr8

Spent several months working through this hard struggle of a read.  I lived in Baltimore for 10 years.  I recognized some of the street names and such, but knew nothing of this area of West Baltimore under discussion.  Interestingly, the early 90’s when this book was written is exactly when I was living there.  That human life could be at such a cheap price and people choose to live in a manner such as this boggles my mind.

I don’t pretend to know how to answer all the questions the book raises about how to deal with this reality.  I resist the notion that anyone is trapped in a cage.  This book seems to struggle with the same answers.  I came out of it convinced even more that apart from God providing grace and even miracles, the choices of generations past have now enslaved the current members of what can only loosely be called a community.  The yearning for such is still there, but the abilities, the “art” of being a community has been all but forgotten as love, hope, and faith have been kicked out of the neighborhood.

I continue to think and pray over the issues raised by both a culture that to some is worth escaping through drugs, and the “war on drugs” that seems to be shifting with the recent move toward legalizing some of the drugs.  You can’t legislate hell’s march in human hearts (thanks, Bill).  That does not green light anarchy, but it is a reality that cannot be overlooked.  All the laws, law enforcement, and such will only isolate such things, it cannot kill it.  Man will run after destroying himself if such is what he is bent on doing.

This book is not for the feint of heart, and I am not sure what one will learn reading it, but I have gained much to consider and much to have renewed compassion upon as God gives me ability.

Howard’s End – the dying German

Posted in Howard's End on December 27, 2013 by u2isgr8

I was blown away by this paragraph:  just let it roll over you…

It was his hope that the clouds of materialism obscuring the Fatherland would part in time, and the mild intellectual light re-emerge.  “Do you imply that we Germans are stupid, Uncle Ernst?” exclaimed a haughty and magnificent nephew.  Uncle Ernst replied, “To my mind.  You use the intellect, but you no longer care about it.  That I call stupidity.”  As the haughty nephew did not follow, he continued, “You only care about the’ things that you can use, and therefore arrange them in the following order: Money, supremely useful; intellect, rather useful; imagination, of no use at all.  No”–for the other had protested–“your Pan-Germanism is no more imaginative than is our Imperialism over here.  It is the vice of a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as heaven.  That is not imagination.  No, it kills it.  When their poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are dead at once, and naturally.  Your poets too are dying, your philosophers, your musicians, to whom Europe has listened for two hundred years.  Gone.  Gone with the little courts that nurtured them–gone with Esterhaz and Weimar.  What?  What’s that?  Your Universities?  Oh, yes, you have learned men, who collect more facts than do the learned men of England.  They collect facts, and facts, and empires of facts.  But which of them will rekindle the light within?”

Theaetetus

Posted in Plato, Theaetetus on July 1, 2013 by u2isgr8

What is knowledge?

First, I have real trouble getting this title out of my mouth.  “Thee ayy tee tus” I think.  But that is easily dispelled by someone who actually knows…

This was long and slowed me down in my overall reading.  In the end I was a little disappointed that no positive conclusion was arrived at, but rather several possible definitions for “knowledge” were covered and rejected.  This is a great question and perhaps too difficult for even Plato to render in a dialog, but I was disappointed anyway.

I particularly enjoyed working through the discussion of “knowledge is perception.”  I think this has in fact become an issue in modern times.  Plato seems to thoroughly refute the concept.

Cratylus

Posted in Cratylus, Plato on June 8, 2013 by u2isgr8

Another lengthy dialogue, but an important one in our modern world of deconstructionist views of language.

The question posed is “What is in a name?” or “How are things named rightly?”  Socrates is asked to mediate a debate between Hermogenes (who represents the idea that all names are merely constructs of the moment, or given by chance, and that any name for something is just as good as another) and Cratylus (who claims there is a natural or right name for everything).

Socrates works through this with them and arrives in the end with a lot said but in my mind little gained.  He does demonstrate that Hermogenes cannot be right, but he does not seem to find much to aid Cratylus, but gives him problems with his position and with man’s ability to understand language.

Continue reading

Phaedo

Posted in Phaedo on June 6, 2013 by u2isgr8

David_-_The_Death_of_SocratesThis was a long one.  Phaedo is dealing with a question, and I believe it is something like, “How is the Immortality of the Soul proven?”  But the organizing principle of this work is an account of the conversation between Socrates and his disciples before he drank the cup of hemlock at sundown on the day of his execution.  Phaedo is relating this conversation to other disciples that were not there after the fact, he being an eye witness to these things.

Many topics are covered to get at this question of the immortality of the soul.

Not all the reasoning stands on what I would consider true premises, but this far into Plato and I am awed at the general care and line by line reasoning that he presents in his dialogues.  It is no wonder that “Socratic” teaching is considered so powerful: it is!

On to my notes from my reading:

Unlike previous dialogues, this one now begins to build a lot upon Plato’s idea of Forms.  This means I need to spend some real time understanding and thinking about this key idea in his philosophy.  See a separate blog on Plato’s Forms.

There is a great deal of the use of opposites and contradictions in this discussion.  A thing cannot be two opposite things at the same time. Thus the soul cannot both be living and dead, etc.  This is a powerful way to define and discuss an idea.

“That is why I am not so resentful, because I have good hope that some future awaits men after death, as we have been told for years, a much better future for the good than for the wicked.” (63 c)

“I want to make my argument before you, my judges, as to why I think that a man who has truly spent his life in philosophy is probably right to be of good cheer in the face of death and to be very hopeful that after death he will attain the greatest blessings yonder.” (64 a)

Given the nature of discussing the soul, I found a good deal of dichotomy in his discussion of the soul and body.  He obviously held to some form of what become the Gnostic idea that the body (especially its passions) was captivated by evil and that the soul, being pure spirit, was good and would be better if removed from the influence of the body.  Christianity thoroughly rejects this of course.

“…if we are ever to have pure knowledge, we must escape from the body and observe things in themselves with the soul by itself.” (66 e)

I marked in my copy at that point, “This dichotomy is his most destructive doctrine.”

Plato seems to believe the soul is set in its “size” but does not explain well how one can add to or diminish from their soul in life.

He also forms a view of soul reincarnation or soul movement that causes some difficulty during his discussion.  Again, not Christian, nor can it be Christianized.  We shall be resurrected, not moved from body to body.

It is also noteworthy in my reading so far how often he uses Homer for his arguments.  The Greek mind was thoroughly suffused with Homer’s texts.

In Plato’s dictionary, “natural science” was the study of causes for everything.

“…if there is anything beautiful besides the Beautiful itself, it is beautiful for no other reason than that it shares in that Beautiful.” (100 c)

Even if it did not actually happen, I found the account of Socrates actual moments of death to be touching in their simplicity, calmness, and love for those about him.  I am confident that death by hemlock would not be quite so easy.  You can read more at this site.

Plato and His “Forms”

Posted in Plato on June 6, 2013 by u2isgr8

The following are my notes/thoughts on this key issue in Plato and his “Forms”:

As I can figure it out, in arguing against the Sophistic notion that all truth is relative to the knower, Plato was one of the first clear “rationalists” believing and arguing that truth is real, and outside the knower.

To defend that argument, he developed the “Forms” or ideas as the perfect and pure reality of what we know in this world, and placed them in their own world outside this world of “being.”  He believed all action and being in this world came from the ideas in the other world.

He believed that the body, with its selfish appetites would naturally distract us from knowing anything with purity, so only the soul could grasp any level of understanding in the world of ideas.  He thus sought to bring the soul up and away from the body.

He believed we could get to an idea either by logic or intuition.  Logic would compare all things and determine what aspects of an idea were present in all things made by that idea, thus arriving at the Idea itself.

He also believed man could intuit Ideas from the forms of this world, because this world was made by the other.  His analogy of the cave is his attempt to picture this belief.

Because some of his teaching led toward the Gnostic heresy, many in Christendom would pan Plato out of pocket.  But I suggest that there is some affinity between his idea of the Good and the Christian doctrine of God.

I have purposely kept these comments short and “note” like as I don’t have the time to build a full paper, but this is certainly one of the most intriguing aspects of my reading through Plato so far.

Crito

Posted in Crito, Plato on June 3, 2013 by u2isgr8

This is an interesting dialogue.  Here, Socrates refutes the desire of Crito and others to help him escape his death.  His argument is that he should honor in death the city laws he has benefited from and defended in life.  To escape would harm his reputation, destroy his children’s future, and destroy the very body of argumentation he had spent his life building.

“…that the most important thing is not life, but the good life.”