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Tag: Epicureanism

up my idiosyncrasies – Plato‏

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      “The School Of Athens (1510-1511)
 
                   Raphael
 
                       _____
 
 
he sounds just like you, my friend said,
who’d bought me the works of Plato
for C***mas maybe, or my birthday, or 
maybe just because he knew I’d very
much appreciate them
 
we were reading him together, as is 
always my inclination, his Meno 
according to my calculations, 
Socrates was doing most of the 
talking, with Meno, a Sophist 
acolyte, a school of philosophy then, 
the Sophists, which claimed it could 
prove anything by using the right 
arguments 
 
lawyers, of course, ensued, politicians
 
and rhetoric, the art of proving anything 
by using the right arguments 
 
philosophy had reached a structural,
indeed an existential, impasse, why, 
they therefore wondered, philosophy
 
wherein it entered a phase of moral 
speculation, StoicismEpicureanism,
ScepticismCynicism, and can you 
blame them, theories about the 
stars, the moon, the world, even 
matter itself, had become so 
questionable, was it fire, air, water, 
atoms, at its source, who knew
 
 
I thought so too, I said, and told 
him that Plato’s were the first   
texts studied in philosophy when 
entered university, that’s where I 
learned to talk like that, philosophy 
from the scratch, as my German 
teacher would’ve said, which is to 
say, from its very beginnings, 
whence I could view, I figured, the 
evolution of received wisdom in 
Western culture
 
I was young then, the young have 
such dreams 
 
 
my father had been agnostic, ever
asking questions, though we were 
being raised Catholic, my sister 
and I, on account of our mother 
tongue, our entire community, 
having been historically linked 
with that religion, and cause my 
parents wanted us to be educated 
in French
 
an existentialist crisis would
eventually follow, I intuited, as
indeed it did, so I majored in 
philosophy
 
 
Socrates taught me to ask 
questions, that no one had  
all the answers
 
Plato, usurping his master’s voice, 
created the paradigm for our present 
version of a Divinity, and Its Paradise
 
there is an ideal version of any 
item we might consider, he spouted,
an ideal table, for instance, exists
of which every material table is an
imperfect example
 
to virtue, love, beauty, truth, he 
applied the same principle, which
early erudite Catholics, Augustine
Thomas Aquinas, for instance, and
others, despite rejecting all of the 
other Greek cultural achievements
appropriated in order to bolster their 
impression of God, the ideal of the 
Ideal
 
this lasted uncontested for just
over a thousand years
 
for a thousand years our salvation
had been extraterrestrial, 
supranatural, this, our very, 
perhaps only, existence, an 
imperfect reflection of somewhere
else an ideal, a mere simulacrum,  
we were, a metaphor
 
Socrates had only asked questions,
what is virtue, what is justice, what
is beauty, truth
 
Plato presumed to have known the 
answers
 
 
Aristotle is making a comeback,
whose method, in opposition to 
his contemporaneous forebear,  
was much more like Charles 
Darwin‘s, working from the facts, 
which proved then, and are 
proving still now, to be multifarious, 
diverse, astonishing, and nearly 
enough to make you believe in 
God/dess again, this time, however, 
through the back door 
 
or in a multiplicity, a panoply, a 
very pavilion, even, of natural 
deities, otherwise known as 
angels, for better or for worse
 
God/dess bless, or angels
 
 
Richard

“Meditations”, Book 5 – Marcus Aurelius

“In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present – I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? – But this is more pleasant. – Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature? – But it is necessary to take rest also. – It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do. So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will. But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man his little glory. And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for. But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?”

Meditations“, Book 5, 1

Marcus Aurelius

___________

though Marcus Aurelius produces
a seemingly logical argument in the
first paragraph of his fifth book of
meditations, his premises are not
air-tight

are we meant to “work”, a notion
already roundly infiltrating Christian
ideology, by the “sweat of its brow”,
as it were, at the time of Marcus
Aurelius, with those roots already in
early Stoicism, with Zeno of Citium,
a good 350 years before Christ

this notion is alive and well, indeed
thriving still, in the Protestant Ethic,
where very salvation is achieved
through labour, a consequence of
the Fall, which is to say, the expulsion
from the Garden of Eden

and Utilitarianism, where effort, which
is to say, work, is required to maximize
happiness, minimize suffering

these are profound pathways based
on faith, not necessarily ineluctable,
Epicureanism, an opposite philosophy,
of savouring the moment, though less
purported, less proclaimed, appears
ever flourishing nevertheless in our
voluptuous 21st Century

Marcus Aurelius brings up another
issue tangentially here, though he
expounds on it in later passages,
that of the primacy of either the
person or the community, a central
question of our times, socialism
versus democracy

he favours community, after Plato,
so, incidentally, does Jesus

these are not easy questions to
answer, what, essentially, are the
conditions required before one
starts to smell the flowers, is
smelling the flowers an abomination
when people are cruelly suffering,
dying

how can I help, should I, and when
do I say no to myself

therefore philosophy

your life, indeed your very next step,
depend on it

cheers

Richard

“Meditations”, Book 3 – Marcus Aurelius‏

“If thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract thee, but keeping thy divine part pure, as if thou shouldst be bound to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.”

Meditations“, Book 3, 12

Marcus Aurelius

_________

the idea of the virtuous man, or the
interpretation of Marcus Aurelius of
such a person, goes back of course to
Socrates by way of Plato, 427 – 347
B.C., who’s ideal was primarily
political, what to achieve within a
political order, rather than a private
meditation, an advice rather than
a contemplation as in Marcus
Aurelius, 121 – 180 A.D., 550,
not inconsequential, years later

other moral perspectives meanwhile
applied, Epicureanism, for instance,
notably, after which the stranglehold
of Christianity produced not philosophy
but dogma, for a subservient and,
biblically labeled, fallen people,
nearly fifteen hundred years spent
trying to figure out how many angels
fit through the eye of a needle,
essentially, how many irrationalities
could prove the existence, and
authority, of a mandated God

René Descartes inadvertently in this
very quest, but not before 1637, put
an end to that, introduced a new, and
revolutionary, perspective, I think,
therefore I am
“,
which put the individual
instead of the Church in the driver’s seat,
this, if it didn’t bring on the Renaissance,
at least gave it a significant push

but because of his famous scientific
method
, studies afterwards in what
we now know as the humanities
became more empirical than
specifically moral, how do we
perceive rather than how do we live
according to what is right or wrong,
Nietzsche‘s Beyond Good and Evil“,
1886, reoriented that investigation,
as it happened, ominously, in an age
where any kind of god had become
irrelevant, Beethoven would be
transformed into a Hitler, an
uncomfortably fateful Übermensch,
Superman

now philosophy is concerned with
language, what do we mean when
we say what do we mean, and can
anybody understand that

our closest moralist, our modern day
Marcus Aurelius, is at present Miss
Manners
, whom I wholeheartedly
recommend

as well as, of course, Marcus Aurelius

Richard

psst: Miss Manners‘ question and answer
format, incidentally, is not at all unlike
what Plato does in his Socratic dialogues
,
she just has a larger, more flip audience

true happiness

 
in the movie Never on Sunday” Homer Thrace, an American moralist and armchair philosopher, objects to the libertine ways of the modern Greeks, Ilya especially, a whore, disconcerts him, she likes her job, so do the dockworkers, and the other women who ply her trade at the port of Piraeus, near Athens 
  
Homer Thrace accuses them all righteously of pursuing the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies that came out of the fall of Greece, instead of the true and noble ideals of the more upstanding Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who believed that the greatest happiness comes from the joy of understanding  
  
when he tells Taki, who plays the bouzouki, that he can never be a true musician because he can’t read music, Taki, who is too old now to learn, hides in the bathroom forlornly, and says he will never play again 
  
Ilya, Melina Mercouri, in a star turn, tells him composers need his music to be able to write his notes down, what would composers do without him, if birds can’t read music, she asks, should they stop singing  
  
Taki comes out of the bathroom
  
so had I   

  
Richard

 

 

 

                   

                       ______________________________