Sunday, April 17, 2011

Socrates: Discussing the flat earth theory ...

"And I rejoiced to think that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the causes of existence such as I desired, and I imagined that he would tell me first whether the earth is flat or round; and then he would further explain the cause and the necessity of this ..." - Phaedo.

This is the closest I have gotten to a true flat earth discussion written before Washington Irving. The context isn't one of affirming the existence of a flat earth theory, but instead highlighting the inadequacy of the teaching of Anaxagoras. I have to wonder how many teachers today have mocked the flat earth theory, but would also fail to be able to "explain the cause and the necessity of this". Probably most. For those who might be in doubt, Socrates continues later:

"In the first place, the earth, when looked at from above, is like one of those balls which have leather coverings in twelve pieces ..."

This continues with some fanciful language that reminds me of Revelation. Then there is one more item of interest between these two quotes:

"I dare say that the simile is not perfect - for I am very far from admitting that he who contemplates existence through the medium of ideas, sees them only 'through a glass darkly,' any more than he who sees them in their working and effects."

This is something I came across elsewhere in Plato's writings.

3 comments:

James Pate said...

Hey Looney, have you seen the movie Agora? I doubt you'll like its "Whig narrative" premise, but it does get into Anaxagoras.

Looney said...

James, I haven't seen Agora nor do I know anything about Anaxagoras. There is a lot more reading to do!

Dee Ice Hole said...

I enjoyed reading this post---thanks for the education.