Divergent as Socrates’ Ideal City

April 26, 2015

In Plato’s Republic, he discusses Socrates’ description of the “ideal city” -a city that is completely rooted in justice. To Socrates, justice means that every person does what he or she is meant to do, whether that is to provide for the city (merchants, musicians, educators, etc.), to guard, or to rule. To facilitate this, each individual is tested to see what he or she is best fit to do. Of course, where justice exists, so does injustice: not doing what you’re meant to do. For example, if someone who is best fit to be a merchant were to rule, s/he would be committing injustice. In this case, that individual would be punished.

While on this topic in class, someone stated that the unjust person was “divergent,” which got me thinking. I realized that Socrates’ ideal city is very similar to the society in the book/movie, Divergent.

I had never seen nor read the book because I’m generally not interested angsty teenage dramas that inevitably end in romance, but I was able to sacrifice some time to watch the film. Divergent takes place in a futuristic Chicago, around the year 2100. A great war has left the city to be quite dystopic, and there are now five different factions that a person can belong to. These are: Amity the peaceful, Candor the honest, Erudite the intelligent, Abnegation the selfless, and Dauntless the brave. At the age of 16, each teenager is put through a series of tests to find out what faction they will join. Then comes along our main character, Tris Prior (played by Shailene Woodley). While she goes through these series of tests, she is found to be “divergent,” not belonging to any specific faction. The “divergents” are endangered, for they pose a threat to this dystopic society. Tris and her divergent teenage romancer then fight the system for the rest of the movie (soon to be two more movies). Sound familiar?

As was aforementioned, Socrates believed there should only be three types of people: the workers, the guardians, and the rulers. In the story’s futuristic Chicago, there are only five types of people (theoretically), Amity, Candor Erudite, Abnegation, and Dauntless. In Socrates’ ideal city, people are tested to see what they are best fit to do. In futuristic Chicago, teenagers are put through a series of tests to see what faction they best fit into. Those who do not perform the function they are best suited are deemed “unjust” by Socrates, and should technically be punished. Tris, who did not adhere to any of the five factions, was deemed “divergent,” and hunted down.

It is safe to say that there are clear parallels drawn between the two societies, though one was considered utopic, while the other was dystopic. Perhaps Socrates would support the latter, for it holds his same ideals. One must do what he or she is meant to do.


Finding the easy way thru life?

April 26, 2015

We can all agree on the fact life sucks at one point or another. No matter what background we come from, we all are challenged by everyday circumstances that test our will and character. This inevitable struggle through life is a shining poster child for nihilism, which is an understandable standpoint of coping with life’s hardships. I believe these hardships we encounter are reflective to what we have experienced in the past, which aspects of our conflicts have been addressed and, consequently, which aspects we haven’t resolved. What’s more, I believe these unresolved problems we harbor contribute to one’s overly self-conscious and insecurities which can lead to the rejection of reality.

We have seen this rejection of reality in class when we read the Allegory of the Cave. When the man returned to the cave after seeing the outside world, the reaction of the other prisoners was indifferent to what new ideas he may have. Existentially speaking, wouldn’t the idea of one’s reality being shattered by an outside force be alarming? Of course, this man shouldn’t completely trust the delinquents of the cave to understand his point of view, but rather view them as just delinquents. This then brings up the point that the life of a philosopher would be rather lonely, considering his reality and understanding is unique and shared by few.

What this post is addressing is not the lifelong objective of the philosopher, but those poor men left behind in the cave. What does one do in light of alternative, possibly superior knowledge? Do we attempt to defend our pride and ego against these outside forces? Or should we accept that which we might not understand and embrace the outside influence? I believe it is our duty as human beings to progressively be seeking out far more superior realities in order to progress through life. If the theory of the Form of the Good is true, and holds immeasurable merit, striving to accomplish the most just way of life is the only true way to live.

In Response To: Purpose of Nihilism

April 26, 2015

This will be a response to Sung Min’s post, found here: https://esmancientgreeks.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/purpose-of-nihilism/.

Overall, I agree with many of your points and whole-heartedly disagree with nihilism as a philosophy and concept. I would like to question some of your finer points on religion vs. spitiuality and what gives life meaning.

Religion are spirituality are not equivalent. It is possible for one to believe that there is a higher power- something that acts like God to some people- and not follow any particular religion. It is also possible for one to not believe in a higher power and not follow any particular religion- what most people call an atheist. Finally, it is possible for one to believe in a higher power and to follow a particular religion. My argument lies with the first two groups of people. For the atheist, one argument that can be offered is that there is no God or gods because they have not experienced either. These people can be, for all intents and purposes, very happy, leading a life where they do not believe in any sort of afterlife. This is where your argument weakens: happiness is subjective. What can make one person happy can cause another suffering. There is a positive correlation between spirituality and happiness, but we don’t know how to design an experiment to test that.

My question for you is: how can one experience God? Is it more of a Dionysian phenomenon where it cannot be explained? Or can it be written down with certainty? My stance is that experiencing the touch of a higher power of sorts is something that cannot be explained, but one knows it when one feels it. This brings to mind another blog, 13.7 from NPR, since they recently discussed the concept of higher powers in two articles: A God That Could Be Real in a Scientific Universe and A New Way To Think About God. I encourage you to read those posts. These leave room for the other sort of people: the spiritual but not religious.

I put myself in that category. I do not live my life to glorify a higher power. I feel part of my purpose in life is to care for others in their times of need. That invigorates me, so that is how I live my life. I entertain the idea that there is a higher power that I can connect to and experience, but I do not live solely with that higher power in mind. The differece between spirituality and religion is vast and should not be confused.

As far as life purposes go, people are sometimes just told what to do, so they do that. Other times, people simply do not feel like they have a purpose in life, and they do not try to find it. That is, in my opinion, where nihilism comes in. Those who cannot find a purpose go about their day believing that the world is useless and that there has been nothing and will be nothing. Again, I cannot claim to know how a nihilist might think because I am not one.

To answer your confusion with people rejecting the world as worthless, those people may have had traumatic experiences or feel like the world has cheated them or have experienced enough that they feel like there is no more to experience. Beyond those possibilities, I cannot answer more of your questions.

Purpose of Nihilism

April 18, 2015

When we discussed the topic of nihilism in class, I didn’t quite understand why some people of the world feel that they have no purpose in life. I feel that the reason why I have trouble understanding this position is most likely because I am a Christian.

As a Christian, my duty in life is to live to glorify God, and to believe that Jesus Christ had died for the forgiveness of our sins so that when I pass away, my spirit will proceed to the after-life, a.k.a. heaven.

What makes me even more confused is that there is plenty of things out there in the world that can make people feel that they have a meaning to live, but they either choose not to seek it or to accept it. Whether it be religion or not, there are many more things that can make a person feel that they are in fact important.

Take family for example. I’m sure that there are plenty of people in your household who would find you as a big part in their lives. Without you, they could suffer serious loss and suffering. They will be burdened with an emptiness that can never be filled again just because of the fact that you will not be physically part of their lives anymore. Also just in case you do not have anyone who cares for you (which I doubt), when you’re old enough try building your own family. Make something out of yourself. Get married, create life and make and maintain a family.

This statement is definitely an arguable statement. However, my belief on this is quite firm. I just do not understand atheism. What I don’t understand is how following a certain religion can hurt someone. Why doesn’t anyone take the chance of believing in something when there is a possibility that they can possibly have a happier life, and if it’s part of the religion, live eternally in an after-life? If they believe that all that’s going to happen to us is die and never exist in any way, shape or form, why not believe in a religion? Sure it may be in a way, a bit time consuming, but like people say, “better safe than sorry.”

I feel that if people have these things to think about in life, they might find it easier and smoother to live life because they’ll find actual purpose in it. No offense, but living without purpose seems kind of depressing. It seems like it would be a better choice to live life feeling that you have a meaning and importance.

Celebrity Spotlight: Socrates

April 18, 2015

As I was waiting in line at Javas Cafe down Gibbs street, I wondered what it would be like if I had a chat with Socrates.

First of all, I know I would be interrogated greatly by Socrates about everything. Something that struck out to me though, was Socrates’s explanation that he was not the wisest man.

“What ever is the god saying,
and what riddle is he posing? For I am conscious that I am not at all
wise, either much or little. So what ever is he saying when he
claims that I am wisest? Surely he is not saying something false, at
least; for that is not sanctioned for him.” (The Apology, 21b)

Like the majority of the Athenians, this was taken by surprise that Socrates’s, the man who can easily bash and interrogate and argue with any kind of subject of life disagrees with the oracle of Delphi  statement that he is not the wisest man, and being Socrates, he goes and interrogates men who were highly esteemed of wisdom-first the politicians, then poets then craftsmen, and concludes that none of them have knowledge but rather that their “wisdom” is not in fact wisdom but came from some sort of inspiration. Socrates agrees that possibly he is the wisest because he knows he is not the wisest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qob4Rg6sJZk This video gives a good summary of Socrates’s  point of view.

This part of the Apology caught my attention because Socrates is basically a ancient greek celebrity. Although he didn’t have the most appropriate attitude most of the time, and back then his wisdom basically put him to death, we still study about Socrates and his life and his knowledge. But why do we study about someone who isn’t really a hero or the typical “great” man that everyone looks up to?

Even though Socrates was hated so much it’s hard to deny that he wasn’t clever. He most definitely was. So if I were to ask Socrates. “why are we studying about your wisdom in school?” What would he say?

I can imagine him take a sip of his black coffee, and mention that he knows he is not the wisest man, and that he doesn’t even know why we are learning about him. But that every idea mentioned about society and politics are in fact true, even after 2,500 years. Our society today just proves Socrates ideas, and we are the examples of Socrates’s ideas of society, politics, knowledge, virtue etc. Although not everything is in fact as planned by some of his ideas, Socrates would say it’s because there are those who have corrupted society by not learning and practicing philosophy, as he takes another sip of his bitter coffee. No sugar, no cream. “It’s simple”, he would say, “as long as you stop playing cello and continue learning about philosophy, you can live your life with the highest value of life.” That, is where I dismiss myself containing my annoyance and walk out. He takes another sip of his coffee in peace.


Finding more instance similar to the fate of Socrates

April 10, 2015

After talking and discussing Socrates’ apology, I started wondering if there were any parallels of the state’s accusation of “corrupting the youth” to today’s world and society and if Socrates would have the same gripes with our society today than he did when he was criticizing Athens’ values and reasoning for his actions.

When thinking about similar circumstances to that of Socrates, The first things that came to mind were the Salem Witch trials and McCarthyism. Although they’re not quite the same circumstance, all three of the situations featured accused and punished people for crimes that were not necessarily crimes. Both McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials were issues because the perceived safety and matters of the state were valued higher than the matters of the family and the values of the state emphasized and were set firmly on the importance of conformity, consensus, and compliance. And all share and ideal figure or thought that must be upheld. For Athens, it was Achilles and his sacrifice, for McCarthyism, it was capitalism and the abolishment of all its enemies, and for the Witch trials, it was the notion of purity and godliness or piety. Dissent or wavering thought, in McCarthyism was treated with immediate accusations of un-patriotism and the intense suspicion of being a communist, which was on par with being an outright traitor and corruptor of the youth. The Salem trials treated different thought or behavior as a sign of witchcraft and a sign of anything ungodly.

In the McCarthy era, those who were accused of being a communist were most often accused because, like Socrates, they were criticizing society’s current values and could gain an audience to their concerns. Similar to Socrates’ situation where, instead of admitting that he corrupted the youth or committed a crime, he debated why what he did was considered illegal and how instead, he was improving society, those accused in both the McCarthy era and the Salem trials were required to admit their guilt and their wrong doing to be freed from persecution and those who did not and maintained that they were innocent were left punished for the suspicion of a crime.

I thought this was interesting to tie into our discussion about the apology because sometimes I feel as though the struggles and philosophies that we talk about are outdated and unproblematic for our world today, which is the same thing I first thought about the apology. The fact that someone could be killed because they challenged the vales of society seemed unrealistic for today because we seem more reasonable than that but I was able to find similar situations that are much more recent that show the relevance of these topics to modern times.