8.26.2009

Update on the Plato Project

The Good News: we've come to some understanding. My friend Wrangler (his patience unmatched) has finally understood my claims about Plato to a point that I'm satisfied. He doesn't agree, but he understands. My claim was that Plato was much more "mystical" than we tend to imagine in the 21st century rubs Wrangler the wrong way, and that's a very reasonable point of disagreement. In fact, I'm wondering if he's right.

Here's a graph of the view that (I think) Wrangler holds:
So, in this image, we see mysticism as the bottom level and rationality as the top level. For Wrangler (correct me if I'm wrong), these two labels are opposing and mutually exclusive, and Plato represents a departure from the mysticism of his predecessor Parmenides and the "Neoplatonist" Plotinus.

In the bottom right, I have a "wider" view of history suggesting that (possibly?) there's a constant up and down between these two ways of thinking.

Obviously, like any graph, this one leaves a lot of data out (where do the Sophists fit?). But I hope it's a fair and accurate description of Wrangler's view of that time in history. It'll be with this graph in mind, and in an effort to figure out whether this graph is a reflection of reality/history, that I'm heading out to read (under Wrangler's advisement) Plato's dialogue, The Ion.

Wrangler's Plato is writing against irrationality, mysticism, and poetry -- and I'm going to see if that's the Plato I find in The Ion. If it is, I'll have to reconsider the Plato I think I'm seeing in The Republic. I'll report back.

2 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

The graph is likely a misleading visualization. I am not necessarily trying to place a narrative structure over the development of these ideas. I myself have no particular investment in promoting either rationality or mysticism. My argument, however, would be that both Plato ["traditional" philosopher of Being] and Gorgias/Protagoras/Isocrates [sophist rhetorician of Becoming] are rejecting the assimilative oral-epic-poetic "mysticism" of their day, albeit in very different ways. Aristotle, typically aligned with becoming, presents a complicated case. I like to see Aristotle as attempting to synthesize these two positions, although I tend to the more sophist critique that he always favors Plato's logos over other possibilities. At the end of the day, his metaphysics (obviously) side with Being.

I myself am off to read Book VII of Plato's Republic in preparation for the first class of my seminar tonight. I. too, will report back.

Casey said...

Noted. I just want to focus on that question of whether and to what degree Plato (and maybe eventually I'll tackle Gorgias) rejected mysticism.

I have nothing on Aristotle. He remains in the fog for me.