Wanna take a wild guess about which Greek philosopher I liked best? Based solely on the list of things I used from each, Plato clearly comes out the winner. =)
And oh, the references I use!
They start in chapter 8, when Jason and Abigail are talking about whether virtue can be taught. This is a question I was first introduced to in Meno, when Socrates and Meno engage in a lively debate on the topic. In this dialogue we’re also introduced the phrase “making the weaker argument the stronger” through rhetoric. Abigail references this on page 244 in conjunction with another Greek writer.
Interestingly, Socrates takes the opposite side of the teachable-virtue argument in Protagorus.
Also in chapter 8, same scene as above, Abigail thinks that talking about Socrates has paralyzed her with his torpedo fish venom, just as he did his friends of the day. This is an accusation one of those friends make of Socrates. A torpedo fish stings its prey and renders it motionless so that it can attack and feast–in much the same way, Socrates was famous for leading his friends into verbal traps and then pouncing with a logical dilemma that forces them to admit the opposite of the opinion they started out with.
In chapter 9, Jason is reading Crito. This is often read in conjunction with The Apology; that one is about the trial of Socrates, Crito is while he is prison awaiting the delivery of hemlock. What really stands out about this dialogue is that it’s the only time Socrates doesn’t just choose a side of an argument and deliver it. He actually talks from his heart. As Jason points out, when Caesar’s armies were closing in on Cato (a political enemy), Cato read this dialogue three times before he committed suicide. (See the section on Plutarch’s Cato the Younger for an interesting tidbit about suicide.)
In chapter 13, Abigail makes a comment about being a sophist and not a true philosopher. This comes from Gorgias; a sophist is someone who uses words to get their way, making them sound nice and pretty, but there’s no substance behind it. Socrates likens it to a pastry chef who offers his confection as medicine. Who wouldn’t rather eat a cupcake, right? But it isn’t going to make you better. A philosopher, however, uses words to get at truth, because by definition he loves wisdom. It might be painful to get there, the medicine might not taste so great, but it’ll do you more good in the end.
In the epilogue, Menelaus asks them if they are running a republic to make Plato proud. Republic is probably the most read of Plato’s dialogues, and for good reason. It’s a fabulous piece of literature, and I recommend everyone read it. But the gist for those who won’t (which would be me if I hadn’t already, LOL) is that Socrates wanted to theorize about the perfect society. He at first came up with something very simple, but his friends declared it boring, so he made it more complex. The ruler of this republic would be a philosopher-king, and the ultimate goal is to use philosophy to bring mankind from the darkness of the cave (ignorance) into the light of wisdom. He warns that this is a painful process; when you emerge, you’re blinded and ill, and you have to adjust to the outside world after living in a cave all your life. Once you’ve acclimated and learned, some are selected to go back into the cave to try to convince others to come out into the light too–a difficult task, since many will not even admit that there is an outside. Is this a perfect analogue to Christianity or what?
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