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Posts tagged ‘Plato’

Teaching Dialogue(s): A Digital Engagement with Plato, Socrates and Chris Long

At HASTAC2015 at Michigan State in May, then-soon-to-be-new Dean of College of Arts and Letters at MSU, Chris Long, and I hatched a plan to have my students engage his book, Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy (Cambridge 2014).  Students would read the book online and engage the digital platform Cambridge set up to encourage a living relationship to the text. As a follow up and to enhance the dialogical engagement, Long agreed to videoconference into class.  This week, we did it.   Read more

“Divergent” Subjects: The Individual Against the Collective

Last weekend, I finally watched Divergent.  Last semester, I kept telling students in my Plato’s Republic seminar that someone needed to get on the film version of the dialogue.  It just seems so cinematically rich.  I mean, I know people have made films that are treatments of the cave analogy, but I want the thriller that is the dialogue as a whole.

Halfway through the semester a student told me I needed to see Divergent because it depicted Plato’s Republic.  Let’s just bracket that this film fails as a depiction because any successful film of the dialogue would have to find a way to perform the narrative encapsulation of the dialogue–Socrates narrating the story of the conversation that follows, the argumentative set up to the city in light of the question of whether justice is advantageous.  If Divergent depicts the Republic, it does so because it depicts a community in which people are divided into classes on the basis of their natures and these classes do the different tasks needed for the city to flourish.  Erudite seeks knowledge, Dauntless defends the city, Amity farm peacefully at the outskirts of the city, Candor speaks the truth, and Abnegation feed the poor and rule the city.  The film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, gets traction from the problem that not everyone easily fits into one category, because you know, they’re divergent!  Like Hunger Games, a story that sets itself up as a revolutionary tale of resistance against oppression, Divergent ends up serving the same neoliberal practically Ayn-Randian celebration of individualism against collective action.  In this film, the collective becomes a problem because it attempts to limit and narrowly define individuals, while individuals succeed only when they work independently of the collective in order to resist it. Read more

“It’s the Thought that Counts”: Part II, Truth, its Consequences and the Good

Since I last posted on the question of whether what we think makes us good or bad people, my thoughts keep returning to how difficult this question is.  To reiterate, when I say, what we think might make us good or bad people, I don’t mean whether we think about doing what we might  generally acknowledge to be bad things — that you think about how to hurt someone might set you on the path to being a bad person, or that you think hateful thoughts toward someone is likely to make you hurt them, or you think it is good to get ahead by taking advantage of other people.  I think the value of those kinds of thoughts is less controversial.  What I am considering is whether the ways you think about what is–what we call ontological claims–makes you a good or bad person. Read more

Famous men have the whole earth as their memorial.

The title of this post comes from Pericles’ Funeral Oration as recounted by Thucydides in History of the Peloponnesian War.  My very patient traveling companion read it aloud to me today in the Kerameikos District, the Classical-era cemetery where Pericles gave that oration after the first dead had been returned to Athens at the start of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides remembers Pericles speaking thus: They [the dead] gave their lives to her [Athens] and to all of us, and for their own selves they won praises that never grow old, the most splendid of sepulchres–not the sepulchre in which their bodies are laid, but where their glory remains eternal in men’s minds, always there on the right occasion to stir others to speech or action. Read more