Posts Tagged ‘Socrates’

Misology Leads To Misanthropy

February 3, 2010

Many people today were so kind in leaving me greetings and salutations. Tish’s greeting caught my attention because she described me as “prolific.” I said to myself that, greeted by such an insightful and meritorious person as Tish, I must hasten to review her profile page, from which I have decided to quote the following:

Although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant… and being born in human form he emptied himself and became obedient onto death, even death on a cross.

This is rather an important passage for both the believer and the unbeliever, for I see in it a message that even though we may have all the power in the world, and weapons, and advanced technology, yet if we are able to remain benevolent and maintain equanimity and long-suffering for the sake of the long range welfare of many, perhaps even generations yet unborn, then there is indeed something divine in us, even if we reject the notion of Divinity.

One cannot deny that LITERATURE about a Christ-like figure exists, even if one chooses to deny that historicity of such a person. Gandhi had his reasons for rejecting Christianity as his personal religion, but Gandhi was determined to live out a Christ-like life divested of self-interest as his enduring “message to the world” (for as Gandhi once said, “My LIFE is my message.”

Tish is perhaps very conservative and I come across as quite liberal (if not down-right eccentric.) But, each side has something of value to say to the other, and for this reason we must always try to keep this conversation going.

Jacob Klein used to puff his pipe, raise his eyebrows in a wise, elderly, intellectually flirtatious Chris Noth fashion and hint that there is something quite profound in Socrates’ off-hand remark that “misology (hatred of discourse) is connected with misanthropy (hatred of one’s fellow creatures.)

But then as Chekhov said, “the task of an artist is to raise questions; not to answer them.”

For the record, my personal “take” on theological matters is as follows:

If someone truly believes that God is almighty, then one must believe that God can do anything he goddam pleases, including the use of something like evolution.

If someone truly believes that God is all-wise (which is a better term than omniscient since it implies not only knowing everything factually, but also knowing what is best) then God is able to transform any heart in an instant, so we need not wear out our fingers pressing doorbells and passing out pamphlets.

If there is a God who is the author and master of all, including being and nothingness, and furthermore is incomprehensible to the human mind, then it is pointless to speak about God’s “existence” since that would cast God into His own noumenal causal matrix.

One cannot deny the idea of God, and perhaps, at the end of the day, an idea is all that is necessary; an idea is both necessary and sufficient IF and only if it leads to right action and gets further than the doorstep of a Pharisee’s lips.

Seeking new friends in social networks

December 5, 2009

I personally feel that the more friends we add, the more we have to gain, since we are eavesdropping so to speak on the thoughts and opinions of many diverse people around the nation, around the world, with gifts differing (as Paul said). How dreary to feel xenophobic, and think oneself “a very private person” and limit oneself to family and friends of childhood’s acquaintance. It seems to me that you know them well enough, and you should be interacting with them face to face, or via telephone, and not in this particular medium of social networking. Occasionally I meditate upon the several curious times in Plato’s dialogues where Socrates asserts that misanthropy (the contempt for our fellow beings) is closely connected with misology (a contempt for discourse). And this makes a great deal of sense, since if you detest the bulk of your fellow beings, the with whom, pray tell, will you converse. And if you do not regularly engage in the exercise of extemporaneous dialog, then however shall you exercise your mental faculties and be stimulated with new and perhaps innovative ideas (or at the very least, ideas new to thee, Miranda dear.)


When I was a senior in high school, I needed to collect an enormous number of baby food jars for our biology class, where we did a LOT of dissection and handed in the organs for grading. A young mother of three children would generously supply me with the jars twice a week. I was very conscious of the fact that she was STARVED for adult intellectual stimulation. She was glad that I stayed with her and chatted for an hour or two about high school topics. I was alway a rather unusual child and adolescent. I would discourse much in the same manner as you see me post day to day. I preferred the company of adults, and especially teachers over children. My graduating high school class, unbeknownst to me, decided that I should be Class Philosopher, and informed me that I should come to have my photo taken. At the time I thought it was something of a lark on their point. Only later in life did it dawn upon me that I really was quite different and quite obsessed with philosophy. I still occasionally call my biology teacher, now long retired, and I mentioned this to him, and he said “Oh yes, you were the most philosophical of any class.” And it was that teacher, Edward Karoll who went out of his way to make me aware of SJC. Without his encouragement I would never have attended.


We so often hear “use it or lose it” and though that is not always in reference to the intellect, it is certainly true that our minds need exercise. I know one fellow in his 80s who retired, and made it a point to do crossword puzzles each day, in the belief that such exercise wards off cognitive deterioration. I have had the Internet each day since 1998 as a medium for expression, and I dare say my writing style benefited from this constant exercise. I keep meaning to track down and read an essay that Sartre wrote on “why we write.”

Is Teaching An Art or a Science

September 6, 2009

I am pleased to have on my a number of teachers.
has asked a very interesting question: Is teaching an art or a science.

Microblogs such as Plurk and Twitter do not allow sufficient space to do such a question justice.

I imagine that a 21st century scholar would describe SCIENCE as that which may be reproduced reliably by following a certain procedure, and precisely measured and quantified digitally with numbers.

Off the top of my head, let me pick an example of something which is an “art”. I spent some years around dialysis centers watching phlebotomist nurses insert or cannulate needles. There were a few people who were absolute artists and could quickly and painlessly insert a needle in even the most problematic of small veined patients. Others were only average in their skill. And some were absolutely dreadful. But such a skill, such a gift, is almost mysterious and inborn in a particular individual. We may certainly video tape a skilled phebotomist and place that video on youtube. But there is no way to construct a step by step procedure or algorithm or formula such as the quadratic formula which allows anyone to solve 2nd degree equations.

I shall attempt to quickly respond to this question as I imagine a member of the faculty of St. John’s Annapolis might answer, since I was greatly influenced by my four years of study in their Great Books liberal arts program.

Of course, they call themselves Tutors rather than Professors because they attempt to teach using Socratic methods. Socrates was often saying “I know only that I know nothing.” A professor “professes” to have knowledge and then didactly proceeds to lecture and outline that knowledge for others to memorize or absorb in some fashion and then prove that they have done their work by repeating the answers they have learned in exams and essays.

We must first ask what is the definition of “science” and what is the definition of “an art” (and I add the indefinite article so as not to confuse the issue with that which is Art in the artistic sense).

I wonder whether Plato’s dialogues even speak in any term that we could consider SCIENCE. Socrates often speaks of various arts in the sense of skills or crafts that one may learn through apprenticeship.

Personally, when I hear the word “science” I think of Galileo’s “Two New Sciences”. Many timelines date the beginning of the Renaissance with the birth of Galileo.

I would say that teaching is an ART, which involve some science.

First of all, a good teacher must have a passion, and compassion to empower the students, and not merely empower, but kindle within them a love and passion for learning.

I feel that there is much more I could say but I will save this post and then post the link at Plurk and also on Facebook.

I do hope to return to this and add the comments of others. I would also like to string-search through Plato’s Republic and post some of the things which are mentioned as “arts” or in Greek “techne”.

But, remember, we derive the word technique from techne as well as technology, whereas the word “science” has its roots in a word which means “to know or understand”.

Science attempts to dignify itself with mathematics esp. statistics, but science requires something APPLIED in material world of Matter and Energy and some “sciences” based on statistics are considered pseudo-sciences, but on average, not all uses of statistics are bad

If by teaching on line you mean a person with a mic/webcam blog, message board, then its a teacher that you cant hit with a spitball

If by teaching on line you mean something automated, programmatic, that students intereact with, well, there may be learning, but no teacher

Craftsment used to fashion muskets and devices with NO INTERCHANGEABLE PARTS, each fitted unique, Indust.revolution replaced artisans with assembly line and interchangeable parts.

Stop and think, there is no SINGLE person who has all the skills and knowledge to create a supercomputer with operating system. It is only
CORPORATE understanding, which propagates itself from generation to generation much like a meme or pattern…

One must speak very precisely. One must define what is meant by “science” and what is meant by “art” as well as how those terms evolved in meaning.

Our media driven culture tends to throw around buzz-words loosely and not think deeply about meanings.

Art in the sense of the Pietà by Michelangelo strives for a “one of a kind”. Science strives for that which can be duplicated.

Craftsmanship is something transmitted from master to apprentice in a long process which cannot be quantified or documented.

The one living person I know of who could give the proper answer to this in essay or lecture form is Eva Brann of St. John’s Annapolis

Here is a perfect example of Socrates notion of “the art” of some particular human endeavor.

Is not the art of painting a whole?

Ion. Yes.

Socrates And there are and have been many painters good and bad?

Ion. Yes.

Socrates And did you ever know any one who was skilful in pointing out the excellences and defects of Polygnotus the son of Aglaophon, but incapable of criticizing other painters; and when the work of any other painter was produced, went to sleep and was at a loss, and had no ideas; but when he had to give his opinion about Polygnotus, or whoever the painter might be, and about him only, woke up and was attentive and had plenty to say?

Ion. No indeed, I have never known such a person.

Socrates Or did you ever know of any one in sculpture, who was skilful in expounding the merits of Daedalus the son of Metion, or of Epeius the son of Panopeus, or of Theodorus the Samian, or of any individual sculptor; but when the works of sculptors in general were produced, was at a loss and went to sleep and had nothing to say?

Ion. No indeed; no more than the other.

Socrates And if I am not mistaken, you never met with any one among flute-players or harp- players or singers to the harp or rhapsodes who was able to discourse of Olympus or Thamyras or Orpheus (mythical inventor of music), or Phemius the rhapsode of Ithaca, but was at a loss when he came to speak of Ion of Ephesus, and had no notion of his merits or defects?

Ion. I cannot deny what you say, Socrates. Nevertheless I am conscious in my own self, and the world agrees with me in thinking that I do speak better and have more to say about Homer than any other man. But I do not speak equally well about others- tell me the reason of this.

Socrates I perceive, Ion; and I will proceed to explain to you what I imagine to be the reason of this.

The gift which you possess of speaking excellently about Homer is not an art, but, as I was just saying, an inspiration; there is a divinity moving you, Like that contained in the stone which Euripides calls a magnet, but which is commonly known as the stone of Heraclea.

This stone not only attracts iron rings, but also imparts to them a similar power of attracting other rings;and sometimes you may see a number of pieces of iron and rings suspended from one another so as to form quite a long chain: and all of them derive their power of suspension from the original stone.

The Corybantes were priests of Cybele or Rhea, mother of Zeus and other Olympian gods, and she was worshipped with wild music and frenzied dancing which, like the bacchic revels or orgies of women in honor of Dionysus, carried away the participants despite and beyond themselves. Cf. Eurip. Bacchae.

In like manner the Muse first of all inspires men herself;

and from these inspired persons a chain of other persons is suspended, who take the inspiration. For all good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Corybantian revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains:
but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus but not when they are in their right mind.

And the soul of the lyric poet does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells of the Muses; they, like the bees,
winging their way from flower to flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles Many are the noble words in which poets speak concerning the actions of men; but like yourself when speaking about Homer, they do not speak of them by any rules of art:
they are simply inspired to utter that to which the Muse impels them, and that only; and when inspired, one of them will make dithyrambs, another hymns of praise (often to Apollo), another choral strains, another epic or iambic verses- and he who is good at one is not good any other kind of verse: for not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine. Had he learned by rules of art, he would have known how to speak not of one theme only, but of all; and therefore god takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers,
as he also uses diviners and holy prophetess,
in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that god himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. And Tynnichus the Chalcidian affords a striking instance of what I am saying: he wrote nothing that any one would care to remember but the famous paean which; in every one’s mouth, one of the finest poems ever written, simply an invention of the Muses, as he himself says.