Sunday, March 15, 2015
I drank what?
The problem with reading really bitchin-awesome philosophy as an adult is that you probably already know pretty much what's going on in the bitchin-awesome philosophy and therefore miss out on having your mind blown by the ancients.
That being said, it's never a bad thing to take a refresher course straight from the source and so that's why I was reading Plato writing about Socrates. Five Dialogues is the first actual writing of Plato's that I've read, and the first contemporary explanation of the Socratic method I've read, but all of it was very familiar because it's essentially the basis of formal logic, rationalism, and general truth seeking.
Plato writes a mean dialogue. These selections are easy to read and understand, the points being made are well made, and you can almost forget that these logicians predate science until they start talking about following oracles or the nature of bigness.
I don't want to take a shit on Plato and Socrates but it's very frustrating to read this from a modern perspective. When they're laying out proofs and doing math I'm right there with them, but pretty much all of "Phaedo" is about literal journeys to the underworld. It's a really jarring juxtaposition - Plato lays out some wonderful Socratic logic in simple speech "If A, then B, not if B, then A" kinds of stuff, the basis of understanding causation, and then suddenly you're reading about rivers of fire.
I guess books like these are worthwhile to read to get to the philosophy without the dilution added by fifteen centuries of follow-up philosophy, but the dilution doesn't hurt the ideas. So what I'm saying is that if your only exposure to Socrates or Plato is Sophie's World or a Freshman level Philosophy Lecture you're probably in okay shape, but read this stuff anyway because it's really fucking well-written and it's not hard to get through. And damn it if I didn't tear up a little reading the scene of Socrates' execution - it was powerful and inspiring and human in a way that a lot of Phil. 101 classes are never going to take the time to get into.
Plato. Five Dialogues. Translated by GMA Grube. Hackett Publishing. Indianapolis: Indiana. 1981.