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Category: Socrates

on courage

aristotle-jpglarge

     “Socrates” 

            Luca Giordano

                    __________

  

following in the footsteps of Socrates,
who, I agree with the Oracle, has been 
ever the wisest man, one whose example 
I’ve followed since first hearing of him, let 
me query, what is courage 

a tentative definition would have one 
stating that courage is a determination
to overcome danger

but to use my own example, being called
courageous for surviving an aneurysm,
would this instance have qualified

where was my determination, apart from
waiting, submissively, for the axe to fall,
or to not fall, I felt no fear, merely time 
passing, not an ounce of determination

but what of those others who endure 
the pain often associated with dying,
agony, is that not a kind of enforced 
courage

so did I qualify

an aneurysm swells the blood vessels 
to the brain as the brain heals, but 
meanwhile the heart pumps a rhythmic
tattoo on those passages rendered 
more tenderso that a throbbing 
anguish is ever drumming its drill 
upon the cerebrum of the sufferer 

perhaps I did qualify

but Socrates brings up an interesting 
objection, can animals be brave, it 
would seem not, therefore courage 
requires self-consciousness, whether 
or not it is defiant or compliant 

and what about defiance before a lost 
cause, is that courage or doomed 
bombast

Aristotle adds to the mix the notion 
of a noble cause, not merely an 
instinctive, however, in the event, 
morally prompted, position

so what is courage, you tell me

I say that you know it when you see
it, the courageous act defines the 
word, not the other way around,

much like flowers are the result of 
their own efflorescence, not the 
manifestation of a preset Ideal

you are the measure of your own 
words

for better or for worse

Richard

psst: it is interesting to note that 
          according to the Bible, in the 
          beginning was the Word
          John 1:1, a convenient  tool  
          to impose order

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Aristotle, an objection

school-of-athens-detail-from-right-hand-side-showing-diogenes-on-the-steps-and-euclid-1511.jpg!Large

      “The School Of Athens (1510 – 1511) 

               Raphael

_______

upon reviewing my Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle from a series of university  
lectures I’ve been following, I came upon 
a discovery so egregious, I couldn’t
believe I hadn’t seen it before, the old
story of the forest and the trees, I guess

upon hearing that the Oracle at Delphi
had replied that it was Socrates to those 
who’d wondered who the wisest man
was, Socrates, abashed, began to seek 
out wise men to disprove the Oracle, 
but whenever Socrates asked of them
what is virtue, what is justice, what is 
knowledge, for instance, the answers 
were always inconclusive, they always 
seemed to depend on perspective –
virtue, justice, knowledge were in the 
eye of the beholder – though Plato 
later putting in his own definitions
called them Ideals, a chair partook,
for instance, of an overarching 
chairness somewhere, as did indeed 
virtue, knowledge and justice, which 
inferred another ideal universe 
contiguously, of which our own 
universe supplied only imperfect 
renditions

you can hear the seeds of Heaven and 
God already in all of that, way before 
Christianity, not to mention Original 
Sin

it also suggests an implacable order

Socrates wouldn’t’ve liked that

but Aristotle, with a much more critical 
mind than Plato’s, less speculative, more 
akin to Socrates’, less autocratic, more 
inquisitive, begins to try to define,
nevertheless, abstractions, virtue, 
knowledge, justice, as though they
indeed existed as ideals

this is putting the cart before the horse,
I thought, in the form of a revelation

an instance exists in the act of creation,
a physical transformation produces a 
flower, the flower doesn’t happen 
because of the word

a human example

for surviving an aneurysm once, someone, 
to my astonishment, had called me 
courageous, I’d been, I thought, only
surviving, not an inch of courage, not 
even a millimetre

courage, I surmised, is in the eye of the 
beholder, it is not at all a template, an 
absolute, in my experience 

Aristotle goes on to define a host of
Virtues, indeed 11, which come out as 
essentially his Eleven Commandments,
on, in fact, courage, among others, all 
essentially, and appropriately, moral, 
thereby creating the moral realm of 
our Western world

Jesus followed

and of course God and Heaven

which, of course, still prevail despite 
sound, sober objections

as though we could know

why is this important

because, I think, we must remember 
that our assumptions are only that,
and often they’re based on only what 
we’ve been told, which is already a 
step away from incorrect 
interpretation 

in the world of false news, check 
your references, check your very 
words, our lives, it isn’t too much 
to say, I believe, depend on it

not to mention our own personal 
moral code, our soul, our purpose 
for being, which every wo/man 
must oversee for hirself

if one has the courage 

Richard

to Socrates – on monotheism‏

sacrifice-of-isaac(1).jpg!Large

      “The Sacrifice of Isaac (1598)

                        Caravaggio

                               ________

by very definition, the inevitable
result of monotheism, Socrates,  
is war, if there is one authority it  
will eventually be opposed by a 
contrary, however picayune, 
however trivial, opinion, see the 
Protestant Reformationsee Islam, 
for instance, now
 
after which there is disintegration
 
before Christianity, there were gods, 
a pantheon of them symbolically
alive among the rivers, the trees, 
the mountains, read Ovid for an
exhilarating description, wars were 
waged for territory, not conscience  
 
Judaism, the religion of the Jews,
evolved for their own existence a
deity, Yahweh, who was their one 
god, disdainful of foreign others,
an uncharacteristic attitude among 
other religions then, becoming one 
of the very first monotheistic, and
consequently existentially 
compromised faiths, if not the 
first
 
the intent was to rally ideological 
support among its adherents so 
that they could protect the lands 
of Israel and Judahtheir ancestral 
homesas they would have it, a 
sanctification of the territorial 
principle
 
their Bible, the Torah, a vengeful 
work, and the basis for the 
Christian Old Testament, 
demanded of its followers 
unblinking and cruel allegiance,
the sacrifice of Isaacfor instance,
a father required to sacrifice his 
own son, however might it ‘ve
been at the last minute averted by 
the intercession of an angel sent 
by that very Lord
 
Christ came along to turn the other
cheek
 
which didn’t last long 
 
indeed Montesquieu, an early 
philosopher of the French
Enlightenment, tells of the 
King’s librarian of Chinese 
texts, who had been converted 
to Catholicism in China, but 
who was nonplussed upon his 
arrival in Christian France to find 
that the French did not do onto 
others as they would have them 
do unto themselves, nor did they, 
more catastrophically, turn the  
other cheek
 
for that matter see what Christian 
Europe did to the Americans
 
Christ’s own followers, once they’d 
achieved political prominence, after, 
admittedly, 300 years of persecution 
by the prevailing Roman authorities, 
set their own deity, God, on high, 
indeed beyond the rivers, the 
mountains, the trees into the very 
ineffable, the inscrutable abstract, 
and squelched any opposition for  
the next thousand and some years,
the philosophical underpinnings of 
which was the work of your 
contemporary, Plato, Socrates, his 
ideal of the Ideal
 
Augustine signed those recalibrated 
papers with his City of God“, it took 
the Renaissance to make a dent in its 
armour, and another several centuries 
to declare the Christian God dead, 
Time magazine in the ’60s, on the 
heels of Nietzsche‘s nihilistic  
pronouncement some 70 years earlier, 
that God had exited history
 
what we are left with, Socrates, is every 
wo/man for hirself, therefore the Age of 
Human Rights, for better or for worse
otherwise many of us would’ve been 
guillotined, burnt at the stake, stoned 
to death, by now
 
what do you think
 
I’ll bet I can tell, you think that every 
wo/man owes allegiance to what s/he 
believes in, even to inexorable death, 
however impractical, unfortunate, or 
fateful, if your exemplary life has  
anything to say about it 
 
 
cheers
 
Richard

to Socrates

Socrates_Louvre

                                      bust of Socrates
 
                                           __________
 
 
                        The way to gain a good reputation
                                 is to endeavour to be what you
                                      desire to appear”Socrates
 
 
having lost faith in the natural 
philosophers, ThalesAnaximander
AnaximenesSocratesit’s no wonder
you turned to more introspective 
speculation, what is virtue rather than 
what is the world
 
but thereby you ran right into the wall
of the word, which had been there from 
the very beginning, but so intimate as 
to not be able to see the forest for its 
trees
 
what is virtue, you wondered, but 
got caught up in the fray of, even 
conflicting, opinions, making it 
clear that everyone had a different 
answer, what could that mean
 
it could only mean that virtue was in
the eye of the beholder, not as your
disciple Plato would have it, that we 
all partook of an ideal Virtue, never
real, a theoretical abstraction merely,
but serving nevertheless as its
authoritative standard
 
but who would’ve set that standard, 
you would’ve asked, never stopping 
at so fragile a conclusion, setting the 
tone for proper philosophy, however 
ill the lesson ‘s since been learned
 
the proper answer to any and every
question is ultimately another  
question, that is the true lesson of 
philosophy, an observation, sir, to 
build a life on
 
questions mean you’re  learning
 
thank you, Socrates
 
 
Richard