Search Results for Socrates
Socrates (470-399 BCE)
Plato‘s Athenian teacher of philosophy who, while never writing a word, left an indelible stamp on the history of ideas.
The ancient Greek poet Aristophanes in The Clouds lampooned his simple appearance and ascetic lifestyle. Despite this, Socrates for the most part was a well-liked character.
Socrates rejected the traditional Greek gods in favor of his daimon–a kind of presence or inner voice that never told him what to do but always what not to do.
He made his impact, in part, by wandering the streets of Athens, freely engaging in public discussions. An exemplar of the moral life, Socrates was particularly interested in ethical questions such as: What is virtue? What are the correct means to pursue virtue?
His method involved logic and cross-examination, aimed at those who thought themselves wise. Although he didn’t write anything, his ‘Socratic method’ is illustrated in the dialogues of Plato.
Plato’s Socratic method is often said to cut to the bone – and even further to the marrow – of uncritically accepted beliefs held by bearers of mere opinion. As to the adequacy of the Socratic method, this remains open to debate.
Socrates was sentenced to death for charges of atheism and corrupting the youth. He was offered a way out by Crito but chose to obey the laws of the state, finding more meaning in this than he would have from trying to escape.
Tim Peters summarizes Socrates’ explanation, as outlined in Plato’s Crito:
Although they may execute me, the really important thing in life is not to live, but to live well.†
One can only wonder if Socrates were alive today, in a world replete with proven cases and allegations of corruption, whether he would have made the same choice. Perhaps he would have adhered to his ideals instead of the imperfect reality about him, and found meaning in this; or quite possibly his vision of justice would have incorporated the checkered realities of his world.
Impossible for us to say. But to some, Socrates’ surrender to the brutish authorities of Athens may seem somewhat naïve, possibly self-destructive. To others, it was noble.
» Clairaudience, Meno, Republic, Skepticism, Sophists
† See entire summary: http://isc.temple.edu/ihfaculty/IH51/classroomtechniques/CritoPeters2.htm)
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Clairaudience is the alleged inner hearing of sound different from, or beyond the range of, normal human hearing. Rosemary Ellen Guiley notes that the term comes from the French, “clear-hearing.”¹
The spiritually inclined see clairaudience as a phenomenon common to saints, mystics and seers throughout the ages.
The recently canonized Catholic Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38) writes in her Divine Mercy Diary that she often heard a quiet inner voice, accompanied with a feeling of grace. This synchrony lead her to believe that the voice was from God.²
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) heard voices which prompted her to masquerade as a man and enlist in the French army. She was eventually declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake at age 19 under a politically predetermined trial. Not until almost 500 years later did the Church canonize her in 1920.
St. Teresa of Ávila provides a more intellectual assessment of hearing voices, which she calls “locutions.” In her spiritual classic, Interior Castle, she says one must learn to discriminate among locutions that are from God, from the devil, and from the imagination. Locutions from God, she adds, are usually quite simple and accompanied with a strong and undeniable feeling of peace.³
In the Biblical Old Testament the voice of God tells King Solomon of his great wisdom. In the New Testament Christ beseeches Paul from the heavens, “Why do you persecute me?” Both of these example could be interpreted as instances of clairaudience.
Other possible examples of clairaudience are found in the religious and even philosophical literature. Plato’s Socrates, for instance, has a daimon hovering about him, forever cautioning him what not to say.
The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo writes of a voice which lead him to establish an ashram in the French settlement at Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo also speaks of “false voices.” These, he says, come from dark beings, called asuras, which forever try to distract and deceive spiritual seekers.4
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung writes of a “ghost guru,” whom he called Philemon. Philemon apparently guided Jung via clairaudience until Jung got tired of his direction and stopped listening, at which point Philemon went away.5
The British scholar of religion Evelyn Underhill writes that mystics must apply rigorous logic and sincere self-analysis to ensure that inner voices are not products of the imagination or evil spiritual entities.6
With regard to the possibility of auditory hallucinations, contemporary psychiatry distinguishes between unhealthy hallucinations and healthy beliefs that are in keeping with one’s religious tradition. Psychiatry, however, still cannot fully explain how the brain creates hallucinations, leaving room for hypotheses concerning an interplay of biological, developmental and evil spiritual influences.
Concerning the notion of evil spiritual influences, practically every religious tradition in the world suggests that evil spirits actively deceive (or impart partial truths cleverly combined with lies), while Godly spiritual beings always tell the truth.
Along these lines the gospel writer of Matthew says that one may judge alleged prophets by their deeds—that is, by their fruit.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew NIV 7:15-20).
While many fundamentalists uncritically latch onto this passage, for thinking people, some methodological issues do arise. For instance, how long must one wait to determine whether a prophet’s utterances are true or not? For that matter, will a prophet’s truth be realized within a given lifetime?
According to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, himself, spoke actual words that the people around him did not understand. And it wasn’t until after his death that the subtlety and power of his prophesying was realized. For example, Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV) is often interpreted to refer to Jesus’ own death, descent to hell and resurrection, a sequence of events which, according to scripture, lasted three days. But in his day, many would have supposed that Jesus was simply talking about a physical building.
With a misunderstanding like this arising from real, spoken words, it seems that ordinary people could be even more confused by inner voices.
¹ Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, 1991, p. 109.
² Saint Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2nd edition, Stockbridge Mass.: Marian Press, 1990.
³ St. Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers. Image Books, 1961, pp. 138-148.
4 Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.
5 See more details here: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/read/notables/jung.shtml
6 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
- An example of my Medium, Clairaudient and Claircognizant work (kevinhunter.wordpress.com)
- A shout out to Evelyn Underhill and her wonderful book (carlmccolman.com)
- Review – The Trickster and the Paranormal (Hardcover Book) (epages.wordpress.com)
- From language games to mysticism – Allan Watts and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (stottilien.wordpress.com)
- A brief summary of the unitive state (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
- Channeling (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- St. Teresa of Avila, “a woman extraordinarily gifted, both naturally and supernaturally…” (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- “St. John of the Cross” by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Celibacy (earthpages.wordpress.com)
Euripides (480-406 BCE) was a Greek dramatist, born in Athens. As a youth he was an athlete, winning prizes at Eleusinian and Thesean gymnastic events. After studying philosophy under Anaxagoras (along with his friend Socrates), rhetoric under Prodicus and dabbling in painting, Euripides realized that literature was his forté.
Euripides is identified with theatrical innovations that have profoundly influenced drama down to modern times, especially in the representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This new approach led him to pioneer developments that later writers adapted to comedy, some of which are characteristic of romance. Yet he also became “the most tragic of poets”,[nb 1] focusing on the inner lives and motives of his characters in a way previously unknown.¹
He wrote some 80 dramas, out of which 19 remain. Medea, Electra, and Trojan Women were performed during his lifetime but his work became increasingly popular after his death. The Bacchae, for instance, was performed in Athens only after he had died.
Euripides is also relevant to contemporary psychiatry and, in particular, depth psychology. His play Heracles (416 BCE) most effectively personifies Madness as the daughter of Heaven and Night, sent to drive Heracles insane:
Madness has mounted her chariot
Groans and tears accompany her
She plies the lash, hell-bent for murder
rage gleaming from her eyes
A Gorgon of the night, and around her
Bristle the hissing heads of a hundred snakes²
Fully versed in the myths and legends that permeated his culture, he was also aware of the Sophists and the early scientists and philosophers like Anaxagoras.³ So Euripides didn’t buy into but, rather, satirized the popular religion of his day. He did believe in the idea of divine providence but was skeptical of many of the religious beliefs and practices that dominated the ancient Greek world.
Put simply, he preferred to find his own answers to questions concerning ultimate truth. As such, he’s been called ’the poet of the Greek enlightenment,’ among a variety of other things by his detractors and admirers.4
² Euripides, cited in Eric Flaum and David Pandy, The Encyclopedia of Mythology: Gods, Heroes, and Legends of the Greeks and Romans, Philadelphia, Courage Books, 1993, p. 99.
³ Peter Burian ” Euripides ” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 25 May 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e458
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The term guardian angel refers to the Catholic belief that we are guided from birth to death by an angel, assigned by God to each particular individual.
Similar ideas are found in the ancient world. In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Socrates speaks of some kind of otherworldly agency that tells him what not to do but never what to do.
The Old Testament also speaks of angels that intercede for mankind, the most famous example being that of Moses leading the people through the wilderness. Here God tells Moses that an angel will lead him. And many Muslims believe that they are guided by two angels.
In Shamanistic and Amerindian belief, the guardian and guide may be in the form of an animal spirit.
Today, the belief in guardian angels is quite widespread and does not pertain to any single religious group or denomination.
Historically speaking, it’s long been believed that dark or evil angels can confuse people and compel them to sin, even to suicide. No doubt as a product of mankind’s sexist history, women, especially, were thought to be driven to the point of madness by evil spirits posing as loving presences.
Contemporary psychiatry generally downplays or ignores the possibility that evil spirits could influence a person’s behavior. Psychiatry does recognize the phenomenon of “magical thinking” but usually within the interpretive framework of a cognitive error or mental illness.
Many exhibiting so-called magical thinking probably do make all sorts of interpretive errors. But the issue here is the underlying cause. The medical psychiatrist looks to inherited, (apparently) abnormal predispositions and adverse environmental conditions which may, indeed, be present. However, psychiatry tends to overlook the possibility that these contributing factors could be part of a much larger dynamic, a dynamic that might involve evil spiritual influences.
- Angel Talk (theaceofswords.wordpress.com)
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The Meno is Plato‘s celebrated dialogue in which his theory of knowledge as “recollection” is forwarded.
Plato believed in reincarnation and the idea that individuals possess an all-knowing, immortal soul. According to Plato, the trauma of being born causes amnesia and we forget all that we knew prior to a given birth.
Plato says learning is “remembering” things we already know about, at the level of the soul if not at the level of immediate consciousness.
In the Meno, Socrates is a literary figure who represents Plato’s perspective. Plato’s Socrates does not necessarily say what Socrates, himself, would have said.
Plato’s Socrates asks a slave boy a series of geometrical questions without telling him the final answer. Because the slave boy eventually gets the correct answer without Socrates giving it away, Socrates concludes that the slave boy must have already known the answer in his own soul.
Some philosophical commentators object that Socrates essentially lead the slave boy down the proverbial garden path, prodding the boy toward the desired answer with leading questions.
Would the slave boy have found the correct answer without Socrates (a) knowing what it was and (b) leading him towards it? If we answer “no” to (a) and (b), then knowledge arguably cannot be mere recollection because it depends on someone else, who already knows, to lead another person toward that knowledge.
This leads to a kind of chicken and egg problem. How could the very first person to exist, assuming there was a single first being, attain knowledge without a guide?
Others say that Socrates didn’t have knowledge of the answer, but simply a correct belief because he begins the dialogue by saying that the only thing he knows is that he doesn’t know anything for certain. But to this one could reply that Socrates (i.e. Plato) still had a definite philosophical bias at the outset of the dialogue.
Related to these issues, Plato makes the useful distinction between:
- Having a belief that happens to be true
- Definitely knowing that one has gained the truth
Another objection to the Meno‘s theory of knowledge is that knowledge of geometry differs from other types of knowledge, such as knowledge of ethics. Can we generalize a specific example from geometry to claim that all forms of knowledge are instances of recollection?
- Socrates and His Method (sandwalk.blogspot.com)
- COLUMN: Finding the life of the mind (usustatesman.com)
- COLUMN: Finding the life of the mind – The Statesman (news.google.com)
- The Philosophy of Socrates: Life and Death (socyberty.com)
- How to Utilize Socratic Seminar in Your Classroom (brighthub.com)
- The Republic – Books I to V, a Summary (socyberty.com)
- Achieving Happiness: More Advice from Plato (psychologytoday.com)
- Mark Morris Dance Group at Cal Performances (sfgate.com)
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Plato (427-347 BCE) was a Greek philosopher born into an aristocratic Athenian family. Over the centuries he’s proved to be one of the most influential philosophers known to mankind.
Plato believed in reincarnation and the idea that all knowledge is contained in the soul before a particular birth.
According to Plato, the trauma of birth makes us forget what we knew. Learning is just “remembering” what we already knew at a more fundamental level of knowledge.
Plato’s Forms are understood as perfect, unchanging and eternal reality. As with various schools of Buddhism, everything in our changing world is viewed as imperfect and perishable.
But the similarities end there. For Plato, by gaining knowledge of the Forms while living our worldly life, we learn about eternity and personal immortality. Buddhists, on the other hand, champion the squelching out of individuality.
Plato’s beliefs about a personal afterlife led him to say that “life is a preparation for death.”
Plato’s most influential philosophical teacher was Socrates. Soctrates was sentenced to death in Athens on charges of “atheism” and “corrupting the youth.” Socrates could have escaped, but chose to drink poisonous hemlock rather than flee and live dishonorably.
Some suggest that it’s unclear as to why Socrates felt that absconding from such a silly charge would be dishonorable. If he truly believed that his own views were right, why would he play the martyr for the flawed beliefs and practices of a corrupt state?
Others say he died in accord with his principles. Either way, Plato was so impressed by his teacher that he made Socrates the protagonist in most of his philosophical dialogues. In these dialogues the Platonic character Socrates discusses with other characters the fundamental questions of human existence.
Plato is often charged with being hostile to poetry, branding it as a shabby attempt to get at truth, while his equally celebrated student Aristotle (384 BCE–322 CE) is seen as more sympathetic to poets and the poetic process.
This observation isn’t entirely right, however. Plato admires poetry that he feels is divinely inspired, in contrast to that which he believes is merely the product of practice and studied technique.
Aristotle, on the other hand, writes detailed prose commentaries on the psychological and social importance of the artistic process, along with the rules that creative artists follow.
Perhaps feeling that he is eternally justified in doing so, Plato uses a rather poetic style in his exposition, far more so than Aristotle.
Plato condemns or severely restricts the use of poetry in education, yet he uses poetry extensively in his own works, citing verses with approval, imitating poetic style and imagery, or subjecting poems to critical study.¹
Unless one believes that Plato is a divinely inspired philosopher, he seems a bit self-indulgent here. And his distinction between inspired poetry and poetry based on mere technique seems unwarranted.
Aristotle, in fact, begins to collapse that distinction by arguing, much like Sigmund Freud or C. G. Jung, that well crafted poetry can be cathartic. In other words, Aristotle recognizes that good poetry taps into something deeper than superficial daytime reality.
From a contemporary standpoint a distinction between inspired vs. cleverly crafted art seems dubious. Instead of seeing inspiration and technique in terms of discrete categories, its seems that every work of art contains some degree of both inspiration and technique.
The two questions that follow, then, are:
- What type, quality and degree of inspiration(s) does the artist encounter?
- What type, quality and degree of technique(s) does he or she use while expressing that inspiration?
After the Christian church began to take hold on the European imagination, St. Augustine of Hippo favored Plato’s works and recast his ideas to support Christian belief. And his grip on Christian theology wasn’t really challenged until medieval theologians got their hands on translations of Aristotle made by Muslim scholars.
¹Paul Woodruff, “Plato’s Use of Poetry” in Oxford Art Online (Plato)
Plato‘s enduring work in which the philosopher-king is depicted as the best kind of ruler.
Not too many people realize that Plato in his Republic disapproved of democracy (Greek: strength of the people), maintaining that the masses were ill-suited to the task of selecting an adequate ruler.
According to this argument, just as a doctor is specially trained to heal citizens, an enlightened ruler is uniquely endowed to govern subjects.
The Republic groups society into four classes of gold, silver, bronze and iron. Individuals ideally fulfill the duties that nature has allotted to their particular social class.
Plato’s popular ‘cave analogy’ also appears in The Republic. It illustrates his views about the connection between change and eternity. The cave analogy goes as follows:
Prisoners are bound to a chair in a cave that they’ve been imprisoned in since childhood. They face a wall with a fire burning some distance behind them. Their captors come and go, always walking between the fire and the prisoners’ backs. Consequently the captors are always seen by the prisoners as shadows projected on the wall of the cave. The prisoners know of nothing else and assume that the shadows are reality. If a prisoner were to escape up the steep slope leading to the cave entrance, his or her eyes would temporarily be blinded by the bright sunlight. Once their eyes adjusted, however, the free prisoner would realize that a far greater reality exists than the world of shadows. If the prisoner were to reenter the cave, they again would be temporarily blinded, this time by a lack of light. When their eyes readjusted, the shadows would reappear. But the prisoner now knows that they’re just shadows and not reality.
In this analogy, the shadows represent the ever-changing world of daily life. The world above the cave entrance represents an eternal, unchanging reality that Plato calls the realm of the Forms.
For Plato, only the Forms are truly real because the mundane world is in a state of becoming–i.e. subject to change and lacking permanence.
The Republic is regarded as a landmark in literature, education, philosophy and political thought. Its influence spread through Europe in the Middles Ages and continues to be felt today.
» Archetype, Archetypal Image, Aristotle, Atlantis, Aurobindo (Sri), Blessed Isles, Boethius, Church Fathers, Dionysius the Areopagite, Gorgias, Meno, Neoplatonism, Plotinus, Proclus, Socrates, Skepticism, Solon, Sophists, Timeus, Universalism
Independent Greek public speakers of the 5th century BCE, teaching for a fee about politics, philosophy and rhetoric.
Protagoras is usually regarded as the first with Gorgias being another prominent sophist. Wikipedia also lists Prodicus, Hippias, Thrasymachus, Lycophron, Callicles, Antiphon, and Cratylus.
Plato portrays them in his dialogues as foils for the sober, sound argumentation of Socrates.
In the most general sense sophists are usually depicted as denying the existence of ultimate reality and morality in favor of worldly pleasures derived from the senses.
Likewise, they’re often said to reject the Greek gods and advocate the perfection of humanity.
In actual fact, there is no single school of Sophist thought. Plato’s response to the leading Sophists is as complex as are their various positions. Although generally slighted by Plato, the sophists were highly intelligent, contributing to knowledge about linguistics, drama and a prototypical form of applied sociology.
On the Web:
- Video touching on some of the topics that the ancient Greeks debated, topics that carried on to the Middles Ages and to today.
» Baudrillard (Jean, A.)
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In philosophy this is the notion that we cannot know things beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Extreme skepticism contends that we cannot be certain about the truth of any belief, including the belief in skepticism.
Softer forms of skepticism point to specific branches of inquiry or to a method of doubt that attempts to clarify uncertainties, even if imperfectly so.
The notion of skepticism is traceable to Socrates’ apparent humility, as opposed to Plato’s use of Socrates to advocate the Forms.
The great Islamic philosopher and psychologist Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) promoted a type of skepticism that some say may have influenced René Descartes’ method of doubt as expressed in his Discourse on the Method.
On the Web:
- “Belief in an Age of Skepticism?”
March 4, 2008, at The University of California, Berkeley
“Noted pastor and author Dr. Tim Keller discusses the place of exclusive truth in a pluralistic society in Wheeler Auditorium, followed by a Q&A session.”
» Gorgias, Hellenistic, Randi (James)
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His surviving works amount to eleven plays and 32 titles and fragments. He is often regarded as the father of comedy, using subtle puns and distorted literary allusions.
But most of his humor is lost not only through translation but also through the passing of the complicated literary, philosophical, social and political world in which wrote and often lampooned.
His plays variously won first and second prize at ancient dramatic festivals.
Among his more memorable works are The Frogs, The Clouds, The Wasps and The Birds.
In The Clouds Aristophanes writes about Socrates as if he were just another corrupt sophist. Thus Plato suggests in his Apology that Aristophanes contributed to the denigration of Socrates.
Resized and cropped from original “Aristophanes” by Alun Salt http://www.flickr.com/photos/alun/38029348/, Creative Commons License
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