Just an individual in a Just society

May 10, 2013

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On several occasions recently I have watched a group of people struggle to grasp the logic behind Socrates’ plan for the ideal city, as stated in Plato’s “The Republic”. I have been thinking about why it is difficult for people, including myself, to understand where Socrates is coming from when he tries to explain his reasoning for the just city. I think that the underlying concept of what success, justice, greatness etc. is and where it truly comes from is different in our minds and the mind of Socrates. Whether the difference lies in the society that Socrates was a part of, or Socrates himself, I don’t know. I do believe that what makes it hard for some people to understand why in the world Socrates would believe the things that he did that would make a better and more just society is the fact that we are focusing on such different things.

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First of all, the society that we live in today places its focus on the individual, not the city, state, or country. We tend to place significance in a person’s achievements and success. The people that I have talked to about things that we feel are greater than the shallow achievements of a person, still usually speak of the potential for an individual. Socrates more often spoke of the potential of a just city, versus the potential for a just individual. I believe that this is the difference that makes it hard to relate to Socrates when he is talking about the ideal society. We are used to the focus being on an individual’s greatness, while Socrates is giving us his plan to form a society that is great.

The concept of “everything in its right place” is one of the most important elements of Socrates’ ideal city, and happens to be one of the ideas that spark the most discomfort among readers of “The Republic”. In this situation, Socrates explains that the ideal city would benefit from every person doing the job that they are most fit to do. This means, for example, that a person with steady hands (among other features) would be a surgeon, because that is what the city needs. Socrates explains that the city will benefit most from every individual doing what their natural skills enable them to do best. Most people find some conflict with this and I think it is because we live in a society where the individual is revered as being able to do whatever they want. “The American Dream”, for example, represents the idea that anybody can become anything that they want in this country, regardless of background, race, gender, sexuality, skills, knowledge, or experience. Obviously skills, knowledge, and experience would need to be acquired before the greatness of the individual could be achieved, but the underlying idea that appeals to people in “The American Dream” is that you are not destined to one career path, status, or lifestyle.

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My experience, and seemingly others experience as well, has been a sort of conflict of interests. I have been more focused on being a just individual, while Socrates looks for justice in a society. He does explain how he believes a person can have a just soul, but this is mainly a factor in his ideal city. He believes that a society consisting of just individuals will be the foundation of the just city. However, part of being a just individual to Socrates means knowing your place in society, and being content with that. I think that most individuals in today’s society, however, are not ready to give up their aspirations and submit themselves to the construction of a just city.

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“A Saran Wrap layer of fake-ness”

May 9, 2013

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I have found that it is easiest for me to understand what a person is trying to say if I am able to relate to their situation. This is how I attempted to understand Socrates’ explanation of “The Forms”. I have often thought about the world as having a “Saran Wrap layer of fake-ness” covering everything. Imagine yourself looking at a tree, but there is this layer of Saran Wrap over top of it. You would be able to see the tree somewhat, although its’ shape, color, and definition etc. would be altered and impossible to see clearly. I was able to follow “The Allegory of the Cave” so well because I related this metaphor to my own experience.

In “The Allegory of the Cave”, Socrates describes prisoners who are seeing shadows of figures, which are made to represent real things in the world. These figures are in the shape of trees, people, animals etc. Because the prisoners have not seen anything except the shadows of these figures their entire lives, they accept the limits of what they are seeing to be true. In my own opinion, there is a metaphorical layer, which covers everything in front of a person, which disables them from seeing the truth and reality of whatever it is that they are looking at.

I think this layer that comes between the average person and reality is something that is created by many things. The media, for example, definitely keeps the public from understanding the truth in a situation, in a number of ways. For example, each news station has a certain set of values, morals, and opinions, which are injected into the stories that are told. When the news stations report on a story, the public is not just presented with the facts that make up the situation, but a certain set of opinions about the events as well. The opinions are not the problem, but the way that they are presented does not make it clear to the viewers that there are more than just facts being reported.

It is my belief that society, whether this is intentional or not, does this same thing. As we grow up, we take some things to be true simply because that’s how we were taught. For example, we are taught that achieving a certain amount of success will result in happiness. This, to me, is like putting a “Saran Wrap layer of fake-ness” (bull crap) over everything; or putting a bag over someone’s head. The happiness that is obtained when a person follows the lifestyle that society places on a pedestal is not true happiness, and in my opinion, doesn’t really mean anything. Conventional success, as defined by society today, focuses on things like money, status, material things and fame. While these things may bring some sort of happiness to some people, there is not enough substance and depth to keep me satisfied or interested. The “Saran Wrap layer” that is put over everything restricts people to seeing certain things a certain way, and keeps them from knowing more. In this example, people can obtain a certain type of happiness and will be content with that, because they have not been able to see that there are greater, more powerful, and more beautiful forces than the feelings that having lots of money can bring.

Although I do not agree with everything that Socrates says, I found it interesting to see how far the analogy of the “Saran Wrap layer of fake-ness” can correlate to the “Allegory of the Cave” and other readings. In general, I felt that I was able to follow what Socrates was saying because I had this other analogy to compare and relate it to.

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Formness As It Relates To Languages

April 12, 2013

I have slowly become more and more fascinated by the implications of languages in everyday life.  Finding that most areas I enjoy learning about are in fact the study of a language, despite my deplorable use of English.  From my self study of German, to computer programming languages such as Java and Python, and Music.  I am starting to see my life through a lens of language analysis.  And so I would like to offer these ‘thoughts’ on Plato’s Theory of Forms and what, to me, are some implications of his theory.

1.) Plato’s Forms, Forms as an Idea

Plato discerns Forms through a series of examples, the result of which leave us with a definition roughly:

the Form(X) is the most perfected example of X

so what does this mean? It means that the Form(Toy Poodle) is the perfected ideal of the Toy Poodle

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“Wha?”

Lets think of it this way, if I ask you what makes a Toy Poodle a poodle you might say:

It is a dog

It is small

It walks on four legs, barks, and likes to chase the mailman, etc…

But wouldn’t all of this be true of say a Yorkshire Terrier?

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“Back off Beotch!”

They are a dog, small, walk on four legs, bark, and trust me, love to chase the mailman.

Then we would need to find more descriptors to further define the Toy Poodle from the Yorkie such as “the Toy Poodle is a species originating from Germany or France, where as the Yorkshire Terrier is from England

This type of differentiation is a classic example of how many (if not all) language gather the bulk of there validity.  We cannot know the Toy Poodle from the Yorkie without the Yorkie.  In fact right now we don’t know the difference between a Toy Poodle and a Smarfuldorg, and being such they could very well be one and the same.

So a word/Form (noun to be more specific) is a direct resultant of its containing of attributes that define itself and its differences from another.

This methodology is abundantly available in the programming language JAVA, where you have the ability to create Classes and Objects.

Our class could be:

Dogs (

size;

hair_type;

weight;

)

In this statement we are saying “all things considered dogs have AT LEAST a size, hair type, and weight” without which we cannot call it a dog.  (note: hairless is still a hair type, the type without hair.  Where as weightless is most certainly an Alien).  You could also make the subclass Toy_Poodle e.g.

Dog(

Toy_Poodle(

country_of_origin(Germany or France)

))

Now after passing the test of ‘is it a Dog’ it can undergo the subtest of ‘is it a Toy_Poodle’

Then within the Class Dog(Poodle()) we could have the Object(Toy_Poodle(Frankie)) that, is to say an ACTUAL TOY POODLE NAMED FRANKIE!

FRANKIE

Dog(

size(small)

hair_type(short_curly)

weight(5lbs)

Poodle(

country_of_origin(Germany)

))

Congradulations Frankie is indeed a Toy Poodle by our standards =D

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“I always wanted to be real…”

So where does this tie back into other language.  Well I like the example of computer programming because it really takes out all of the emotion from the communication and gives us the meat of the process, allowing us to ask the question “why is it that the Form/Object/Noun Frankie (the now official Toy Poodle) coming to be in the first place and is Frankie really a Poodle?

I would argue the only reason Form/Object/Noun Frankie is coming to existence is because we are in fact trying to reach a consensus or impose our ideas on or with others.  This very act of Form/Object/Noun creating is the fabrication of ‘common knowledge’, which I would define as: any knowledge prerequisite to interaction.

And if this is the case then isn’t it possible this form of Knowledge is entirely fabricated?

I will leave you with this last thought as well (as this is already a lengthy post)…

Can one prove we can not communicate w/o forms?

If so then forms are a prerequisite to communication?

-RcM