Monday, January 31, 2011

Plato: Invention

"Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." - The Republic, Book II.

This has been abbreviated to the well worn saying "necessity is the mother of invention". I like what the internet has to say about this: "The author of this proverbial saying isn't known. It is sometimes ascribed to Plato, although no version of it can be found in his works." Another site gets it righter. Of course Plato may not have been the author, but rather repeating what had already been a common cliche. The context is one describing the entrepreneurial spirit and specialization and speculating that this is what brought about the design of a city state type civilization. A similar spirit is reflected in the writings of Adam Smith. I can't help but note the modern intellectualoid description of the same, which typically does away with the need for a creator or invention. Instead, everything simply evolves spontaneously generates.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Plato: Regarding Hobbits.

"According to the tradition, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result-when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other;,no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point." - The Republic, Book II.

This discussion is one on justice vs. injustice. I suppose Tolkien got his notions for The Lord Of The Rings from this. There is more content in the first book of The Republic on this subject than I have heard in a life time from secularists. But then again, we live in the age of sound-bite philosophy.

Much of the discussion is on whether or not there is any advantage to living a just life. Thus, we have a repeated theme:

"The universal voice of mankind is always declaring that justice and virtue are honourable, but grievous and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion. They say also that honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty; and they are quite ready to call wicked men happy, and to honour them both in public and private when they are rich or in any other way influential, while they despise and overlook those who may be weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better than the others." - The Republic, Book II.

Socrates argues the opposite, but it seems that he is limited to tying up the others in syllogisms rather than genuinely supporting a notion that justice is something that a person will directly benefit from. I wonder what they would make of the modern Darwin worshipers who insist that morality and justice evolved with out any help from the gods. Plato's entire discussion is bracketed by remarks on Hell and the judgment of the gods, so it is inferred that the answer lies in religion:

"The gods, too, may he turned from their purpose; and men pray to them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties, and by libations and the odour of fat, when they have sinned and transgressed." - The Republic, Book II.

This does bring to mind another Bible passage:

"Hear the word of the LORD,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the law of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
“The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow." - Isaiah 1:10-17
Video from top of Rose Peak. This my first attempt to make a video. Not a super clear day for this. The reason I made a video is that I ran out with my SLR, but left the battery in the charger.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: Worshiping God by aborting your child?

This group was discussed in an article here. From their website, it appears that they think that the federal government should be funding abortions, because this is a sacred act that is pleasing to God. A couple questions spring to mind on reading this. For example, are there any known religions that approve of abortion other than for the saving of the mother's life? To my knowledge the answer is a very loud "NO!". The RCRC website does, however, list their members. It appears to be the usual post-modern soup of united mainliners, atheist Jews, and unitarians. Missing are any Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim voices, as well as any evangelical Christians or the Catholics. They have a "perspectives" section which purports to give arguments from these genuine religions supporting abortion. Given that the second advocate is supposedly "Catholic", it is safe to say that they are quotes from renegades.

The next thing I wonder about is if themRCRC might do something like - for example - requiring that Hamas and Hezbollah fund abortions while insisting that Muhammad commanded this in the Qur'an. After all, the Palestinians have the highest birthrate in the world and the least means of supporting their children. Wouldn't this be humane? Of course the RCRC wouldn't attempt this, because it would potentially result in them getting onto a list that they don't want to be on. Meanwhile, they have an initiative to encourage abortions among the African-American community. What I learned from reading this is that anti-abortionists are prone to racism. That should give everyone who thought they knew what was going on in Exodus 1 a reason to pause and reconsider.

The last question is about that pesky "wall of separation between church and state". Seriously, aren't these groups the ones who scream the loudest when any kind of Christian favored legislation gets into the system that they don't like? And here they are advocating that the government fund abortions because it is a religious imperative. What happened to separation of church and state? Or perhaps separation of church and state isn't pertinent because we are speaking of a religion composed of the anti-church?

Suddenly an unrelated bit of Bible poetry suddenly springs to mind:

"But you—come here, you sons of a sorceress,
you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
Whom are you mocking?
At whom do you sneer
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not a brood of rebels,
the offspring of liars?
You burn with lust among the oaks
and under every spreading tree;
you sacrifice your children in the ravines
and under the overhanging crags. " - Isaiah 57:3-5

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

National Academy of Sciences report on the decline of US education and R&D.

This is 591 pages of juicy, but sad reading. The document has a rather impressive name: "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future". It gives us some truly innovative insights:

"If a frog is dropped into boiling water, it will immediately jump out and survive. But a frog placed in cool water that is heated slowly until it boils won’t respond until it is too late." - page 25.

One of these days when I am asked to do a sermon, I am going to bring along a pot of water, a stove, and some frogs to test this theory out in front of the congregation. Then there are the bits that are obvious to everyone in the world except for us Americans:

"About 6% of our undergraduates major in engineering; that percentage is the second lowest among developed countries. Engineering students make up about 12% of undergraduates in most of Europe, 20% in Singapore, and more than 40% in China. Students throughout much of the world see careers in science and engineering as the path to a better future." - page 31.

And why might this be? I am reminded of a temple I went to in Japan that featured a large statue of Thomas Edison. Certainly I wouldn't agree with worshiping engineers, but we live in a nation that finds engineers to be some sort of alien curiosity. Investment banker? Yes! Lawyer? Yes! Unionized truck driver? Yes! Engineer? Nah. Too much study for too little gain. Much of this document is a chronicle of the decline of US R&D. Then we have this:

"In 2001 (the most recent year for which data are available), US industry spent more on tort litigation than on research." - page 16.

There are a few random and disjoint remarks regarding the need for tort reform, but nothing as expansive as the above note on the frog.

Two references to labor unions are included - one for Finland and one for Ireland where they were cited as partners in helping the country transform towards innovation. The note on Ireland already looks anachronistic as they head for bankruptcy. There is still a lot to wade through, but the conclusion was listed at the beginning:

"Although the US economy is doing well today, current trends in each of those criteria indicate that the United States may not fare as well in the future without government intervention." - page 4.

Here we see the genius of the Academy of Sciences at work. Rather than merely proposing more of the same, they propose a radical new course of - drum roll - the same, but more of it. More money for schools. More money for hiring teachers. More money for scholarships for teachers. More money to allow promising young researchers to take charge (that would have been nice when I was young!). Government picking and choosing of new technologies. In short, it is a repeat of everything we have been doing for the past few decades.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Big One. We were amazed at the huge waves going by as we look out from high above. Didn't realize it would make national news.

A view looking down at Rodeo Beach with the mouth of San Francisco Bay in the distance.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Other signs of Spring. These are some of the wildflowers that are just starting to appear.

That is my wife and two friends who joined us looking our over the Pacific Ocean from the bluffs up above Rodeo Beach. I told my wife I would take her for a "romantic walk along the beach" and she invited our friends to join us. A "romantic walk", however, must include some decent amount of climbing and tricky footing. Thus, much of the discussion during the "walk" centered around the meaning of "romantic walk" vs. "easy stroll" vs. "light hiking".

Spring has sprung?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Good of them to include a sketch of a frog with the sign.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Signs of the Times.

Western bounty hunters beware. You can get your human quarry, but leave the plants alone.

This puzzled me for a minute.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My wife and I had a nice date to Pinnacles National Monument on Monday. This required some lamps to get through the caves and we were treated to many nice views. Pinnacles National Monument is popular with climbers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Day.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." - from MLK's 1963 speech.

Yes, we should celebrate, first because we are no longer judging people in this nation by skin color, and second because we are judging people based on the "content of their character". Today we can rejoice, because the character of men is worthy and ready to be judged. We are disciplined and caring, not controlled by drugs, alcohol or addictions, but working hard to provide. Men do not squander their money in gambling or take on too much debt. We never demand more than we deserve, always honor our coworkers and superiors, while refusing to gossip about others. The young man who impregnates a girl and leaves her is reviled, while we honor the one who perseveres in being a good father and faithful to his wife through hardship. The teacher too is honorable, always endeavoring to teach what is morally and factually correct while being careful never to mislead. Most importantly, we discuss issues of character regularly among ourselves and with our children, noting what is praiseworthy and shunning what is shameful. Finally, we are a nation that never asks what our nation can do for us; instead we ask and seek opportunities to do things on behalf of our community and nation.

Indeed, I have a dream that all of us in this great nation will one day be judged on the content of our character.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recap of the last week and military metaphors.

I am very glad to hear that Gabrielle Giffords is doing better, although I presume that she will never quite recover. May God's healing and comfort be on all of the 14 wounded, as well as those who were close to the 6 who died.

My take on the post shooting events? At the time of the shooting the left-wing journalists had all been on a hair trigger waiting to launch a sneak attack, but not knowing what the sign would be - only the target. With the Tucson Shooting, the New York Times with Captain Krugman led a squadron of attack drones and zeroed in on Sarah Palin's camp. This was taken as a signal by much of the rest of the media to begin a generalized Blitzkrieg on all the right wing positions. Sarah, however, was already in a state of heighten preparedness and launched a cruise missile back at a target with the code name "blood libel" that was powering much of the left's forces. A spectacular explosion ensued that could have been mistaken for a WMD. At this point the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) stepped in and launched their own cruise missile at Sarah. They were offended that she had appropriated technology of the state of Israel. Meanwhile, the conservative talk show hosts were firing their machine guns at the liberals who were charging across no-mans land, while bloggers and pundits of all stripes were snipping every which way as if this were Stalingrad.

At this point General Obama suddenly appeared who had spent the week in a bunker going over reports of casualties as well as the progress of the war. Visiting Tucson, he declared a cease fire and the left-wing forces began a reluctant retreat while various media outlets put down a rhetorical barrage in their rear to help their forces safely get back into their trenches. The final casualty reports have yet to come in, but there is a little data from the media. General Obama got through without a scratch, which is good news given that he was a non-combatant. Sarah showed some signs of black soot having gotten on her, but that was to be expected since she was at the center of the attack. They haven't released any data on Paul Krugman and his squadron.

The final conclusion is that military metaphors remain the most colorful way to describe events, especially when politics is involved. As Clausewitz said: "War is not merely a political act, but also a political instrument, a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means".

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aristotle: Continence and Temperance.

"... for a bad man will do ten thousand times as much evil as a brute." - Nicomachaen Ethics, Book VII.

This chapter was quite satisfying as the relative merits or demerits of actions were weighed. Some of the language is confusing, but my sense is that continence is about the passions, whereas temperance is about the intellect. For example, one can be angry because he is angry by nature, which would be incontinence. Others, however, are simply angry for purposes of malice, which makes them intemperate. The intemperate are deemed to be much worse than the incontinent.

I have been collecting references to the classical usage of the term 'unnatural', so here is one more instance:

"Phalaris may have restrained a desire
to eat the flesh of a child or an appetite for unnatural sexual pleasure; but it is also possible to be mastered, not merely to have the feelings."

One thing I am struck by is that the kind of discussion of ethics that is that serious discussions of ethics seem to be so rare in our day. In fact just about everything I have seen from academics that was deemed to be serious ethical discussion struck me as populist notions backed by high-brow hyperbole. Another thing that jumped out at me is how Jesus handles the classes in the gospels. The incontinent seem to be the focus of his concern, which I suppose is the recognition that we are not only guilty of sin, but frequently enslaved by it. Yet there was another group whose sin had become intellectualized and was envious of the former group.

Friday, January 14, 2011

US Army News: Spiritual Fitness as part of combat readiness.

"One reason, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, is that people who are inclined toward spirituality seem to be more resilient.

'Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health,' says Cornum, who is director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness."

Given the long term deployment of current US forces along with the amount of social studies being inevitably performed on them, I have a strong suspician that Rhonda knows what she is talking about. Needless to say, some have found this offensive including some atheists and Christians, although 'Christian' is a rather broad term these days. Somehow I doubt that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are entertaining many of these sorts of lawsuits.

This reminds me that atheist strongholds like UC Berkeley are surrounded by spirituality. Yes, it includes some Christianity (just about every variety), but then it includes everything else such as beads, crystals and fortune tellers. They probably even have a Rastafarian temple. But seriously, for the atheists out there, if you were shown that praying is strongly correlated with being resilient in the face of desperate and grim situations, wouldn't you find something to pray at?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Do you know how to be a Chinese mom?

NPR gives us the details.

"What kind of a mother hauls her then-7-year-old daughter's dollhouse out to the car and tells the kid that the dollhouse is going to be donated to the Salvation Army piece by piece if the daughter doesn't master a difficult piano composition by the next day?" ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kalifornia Kalculus.

This was from the San Jose Mercury regarding one of the proposals from governor Brown to help balance the California state budget:

"Transferring authority to locally run community based corrections, for instance, would save the state $458 million. More than 50,000 inmates are sent to prison to stay less than 90 days, a cost of $200,000 per inmate."

Note that local prisons are funded by the state government indirectly, whereas state wide prisons are funded directly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Aristotle: It is better to give than to receive.

The first half of book 4 of the Nicomachean Ethics could be easily be mistaken for something Christian. Generosity is praised, while prodigals and misers are both criticized. What sets it apart from Christianity is that Aristotle's ethical system gives a strong advantage to the rich, because they have more ability to give, whereas the poor can neither give nor be praised. The generous rich man who wisely uses his wealth is termed a "liberal", at least in the translation. (Liberal is a Latin word ... wish I knew my languages better.)

The Christian model is different:

"As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'" - Luke 21:1-4

We also must contrast the modernist liberal to both the Christian model and the classical liberal model that Aristotle gave. The modernist doesn't give of his own money, so he is neither like the generous rich person nor the poor widow. Instead, he prefers to take money from some other person to give to the poor. This too, however, is simply a repeated pattern from ancient times:

"Other smart characters rob one person to give to another, hoping their rapacity will bring them a reputation for generous giving." - The Letters of the Younger Pliny, IX.30

Since the modernist gives from the wealth of others to gain a reputation from men, whereas the Christian is compelled to do his giving in secret, we have the added insult that the modernist is forever publicly condemning the Christian for being stingy, knowing that it is against the ethics of the Christian to prove otherwise.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rhetoric: The Science of the Soul.

Jared Loughner has stirred up some conversation regarding the nature of rhetoric. This brought up a memory so I decided to track it down:

"Socrates: Rhetoric is like medicine.

Phaedrus: How so?

Socrates: Why, because medicine has to define the nature of the body and rhetoric of the soul-if we would proceed, not empirically but scientifically, in the one case to impart health and strength by giving medicine and food in the other to implant the conviction or virtue which you desire, by the right application of words and training." - Plato: Phaedrus.

The notion of rhetoric being the science of the soul was a mind bender for me, but it does seem to have some truth to it. Stirring up passions is what rhetoric aims at.

The science of rhetoric is something that I am a failure at, but I do pray that God will heal the wounded and provide comfort to those who lost loved ones in this shooting.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

It has been almost two months since I was able to do Rose Peak. There were a few cramps towards the end, but it was a success.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Aristotle: Fearphobic.

The other day I was interacting with Dreamy Young Scholar (DYS for short). DYS found some of my views to be utterly revolting. As he became animated, he told me that I wasn't merely &#@$% - I was Phobic. This left me in shock for 24.6 microseconds and I informed him that fear was an emotion, but I didn't have any emotions. Aristotle has pondered the matter of fear far more than I and I must bow to the words of wisdom:

"That it is a mean with regard to feelings of fear and confidence has already been made evident; and plainly the things we fear are terrible things, and these are, to speak without qualification, evils; for which reason people even define fear as expectation of evil." - Nicomachean Ethics, Book III.

Thus, I was in error as I responded to DYS, since fear as the expectation of evil can be entirely rational. Our discussion was unfortunately cut off before we could achieve any degree of substance, but Aristotle has taken things the direction the conversation should have gone:

"Now we fear all evils, e.g. disgrace, poverty, disease, friendlessness, death, but the brave man is not thought to be concerned with all; for to fear some things is even right and noble, and it is base not to fear them- e.g. disgrace; he who fears this is good and modest, and he who does not is shameless." - Nicomachean Ethics.

There is also the matter of the coward. What Aristotle didn't discuss was if the fear pertains to myself, those whom I care about or others. Nor do the things mentioned involve an eternal soul that is accountable before God.

Phobia has been in the news recently. The most famous incident was that of Juan Williams who was fired from NPR for admitting to a phobia regarding Muslim garb clad passengers on planes. Then there was the autism-vaccine link claim that stirred all kinds of phobic passions.

For much of Protestant Christendom, we have the Doctrine of Total Depravity which states that Homosapiens aren't capable of anything but Depravity on their own. Since Depravity is a subset of Evil, and this doctrine asserts that evil is inevitable, it is clearly synonymous with Homophobic. And what are we to make of Jesus who - as God - came to Earth to save mankind, knowing that we would kill him? He loved those for whom he had a phobia? Could a modernist intellectual begin to process such a thing?

As DYS hasn't much experience with intellectuals yet, I also have a fear derived from experience. It is one where people lead you on in some action that turns out to be destructive to the one they are leading. This leading comes with all manner of flattery, yet secretly they revile and despise you. To this I will add someone else's opinion:

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Aristotle: Regarding the establishment of sobriety check points.

"Indeed, we punish a man for his very ignorance, if he is thought responsible for the ignorance, as when penalties are doubled in the case of drunkenness; for the moving principle is in the man himself, since he had the power of not getting drunk and his getting drunk was the cause of his ignorance." - Nicomachean Ethics, Book III.

DUI laws have been on the books longer than I realized.

This is an interesting chapter regarding the distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions. Involuntary is deemed to be an action born of ignorance, but with the additional restriction that the ignorance cannot have been deliberate. Aristotle places actions done in anger as voluntary actions with the following note:

"Those who say it is appetite or anger or wish or a kind of opinion do not seem to be right. For choice is not common to irrational creatures as well, but appetite and anger are." - Nicomachean Ethics, Book III.

I suppose that this will more and more break down as it is argued that there is no distinction between humans and animals.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Aristotle: Do not add or take away ...

"so that we often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to take away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good artists, as we say, look to this in their work" - Nicomachean Ethics, book II


"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." - Revelation 22:18-19

There is probably nothing more here than a similar figure of speech, but it still stuck out.

The theme of this book is moderation. From my Christian viewpoint, the greatest good is God, and we should seek him with all our being. The various things we encounter in life should be optimized for this purpose. The only problem is that we have no way of knowing the optimum. How much should I eat or drink to achieve an optimum? Given that we can't know the optimum, then shouldn't we just choose a mean? But the mean is the distance between limits, and how do we know the limits unless we test them? It is all a good way to get tangled up and wring your hands over life's little choices. The wise man just gets along with life.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Enterprise and changing Navy culture.

"Michael Corgan, a career Navy officer who now teaches at Boston University, said before today's news that Honors was guilty not only of an error in judgment but of failing to recognize a changing Navy culture."

Who knew that the US was returning to a nation of Puritan Prudes? Certainly I approve, but at the same time I am shocked. Why is the US government suddenly interested in imposing my standards onto the military? Or is it simply that the US is becoming a more chaste place generally that doesn't tolerate so much filth and raunch? Of course we always need to keep these things in a longer term perspective:

“The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” - Genghis Khan.

At the other extreme is the theory of Aristotle:

"And this will be found to agree with what we said at the outset; for we stated the end of political science to be the best end, and political science spends most of its pains on making the citizens to be of a certain character, viz. good and capable of noble acts. " - Nicomachean Ethics.

May our government continue in its effort to encourage the development and promotion of leaders who are desirous of performing good and noble acts.
Plato's Phaedrus: "All things in common"

"Socrates: ... The prayer, I think, is enough for me.
Phaedrus: Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in common." - Phaedrus


"... All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and good, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. ..." - Acts 2:42-47

Another case of the echoes of philosophy? I always wonder at those who claim Christians to be nasty people. Certainly I and others have our moments, but at the same time, I find the Christian community to be nearly always helpful and encouraging.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Plato's Phaedrus: "Through a glass dimly"

"For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty." - Phaedrus.

The context is the unenlightened souls, but the philosophers have seen the gods truly. The subject of Phaedrus as a whole is love. This passage reminds me a bit of 1 Corinthians 13:12 - another passage from the famous chapter on love:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

There is a major difference between Phaedrus and 1 Corinthians 13 that should be noted. Phaedrus talks of love, but as a madness that controls the lover to exploit and consume the loved. The Bible's love is one where the lover is consumed in the process of caring for the loved. In this sense they are near opposites, although perhaps they could both be considered a sort of madness.

Regarding sight:

"For sight is the most piercing of our bodily senses; though not by that is wisdom seen; ..." - Phaedrus


"We live by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7

"That LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:12

This is again a similar theme, although 1 Samuel predates Plato.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Aristotle: "To be or not to be ..."

Apparently this quote is from Aristotle rather than Shakespeare. On Interpretation discusses what is needed to form a sensible statement that can be logically evaluated. It would seem that this kind of discussion is pointless, but in our modernist/post-modernist era many of the key points are lost. On the other hand, correcting a modernist or post-modernist on these matters is still pointless, since the faculties needed to affirm the reasonableness of Aristotle's propositions are absent.

The first point is that a noun is neither true nor false. A verb is necessary at a minimum in addition to the nouns so that the words can be brought together into a statement. The fact that there is an arrangement of words is not sufficient, however, as gibberish is possible. Having formed a sensible statement, there is a requirement that the statement cannot be both true and false simultaneously. There is a related discussion of the possibility of the coexistence of contraries, so that we cannot say "the good is not good". Much of the discourse is on the various forms and properties of negation, proceeding on to hypotheticals.

A point that Aristotle mentions but doesn't dwell on is that words should not have multiple definitions, because this can cause a great deal of confusion. For example, if we should say that the word "garment" means "horse" in addition to the usual meaning, then statements like "Socrates has a garment" or "Socrates is wearing a garment" should have some unusual possibilities.
Happy New Year!

Plato's Timaeus: The "only begotten".

"In order then that the world might be solitary, like the perfect animal, the creator made not two worlds or an infinite number of them; but there is and ever will be one only-begotten and created heaven." - Timaeus

"The world has received animals, mortal and immortal, and is fulfilled with them, and has become a visible animal containing the visible — the sensible God who is the image of the intellectual, the greatest, best, fairest, most perfect — the one only begotten heaven." - Timaeus

compared to the Bible:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

This is another instance where my memory of the KJV allowed me to see a pattern that I would have missed otherwise. This relates somewhat to the translation of Plato being done in the 19th century with earlier language patterns.

The contrast here is that Plato uses only begotten in a way that is spiritual and all encompassing, while John uses the same term for Jesus. The classical philosopher would have spotted the contrasting usage instantly.