The quest for wisdom phi-101-cl01

 

Journal II

 

Journal II (Journal for Modules 3 and 4)

Module 3 Assignments

Read Plato: The Last Days of Socrates

“Phaedo-Wisdom and the Soul”

“Socrates about to Die”

1.  Click on Module 3.

2.  Click on GO TO arrow and this will open the drop down box.

3.  Click on Reading/Journaling.  This will give you the following information:

You need to include a response to at least three of the questions, (see Guiding Questions). 
4.  Click on each of the 
Guiding Questions.

 

 

You need to include a response to at least three of the questions, (see Guiding Questions page).

 

Pythagoras’ school had a religious inspiration to it, Orphism, and a belief in the immortality of the human spirit and reincarnation. Concerning thePhaedo, Plato is sometimes interpreted as being concerned primarily with presenting arguments for the immortality of the soul. He is perhaps better read as providing arguments against those who have a materialistic view of the human person. Plato believes he can show that materialists have misunderstood the true nature of the human being.

 

Some interpret Plato as being negative about the body. But keep in mind the times in which he lived. The Greeks emphasized warfare, physical training, and physical beauty. They typically (as in the Homeric epics) saw life after death as being a shadowy existence without any real awareness. This is the context, and Plato has to state his case strongly in order to make any real headway against the prevailing view.

 


1.   The setting: a religious vow to Apollo is being fulfilled (do you recall who was “the god” of theApology?) and Socrates “seemed quite happy” (117). Socrates has been following a recurring dream’s injunction to “practice … ‘music’ (creative material inspired by the Muses, i.e., the arts).” How does Plato’s setting lay the groundwork for his spiritual and positive view of the afterlife? 
 

2.   Why does Socrates resist the idea that suicide is acceptable (121-122)? Remember that he himself will take the noble option of drinking hemlock as punishment, and this “necessary circumstance” is an exception (122). The Orphic religion had a saying (soma sema) that the “body” was a “prison.” Socrates doesn’t adopt a punishment-view of embodiment, but he does describe earthly life as a “lock-up” and our being “in the care of the gods, one of their possessions” (121). The biblical tradition is comfortable with “servant” and “slave” as terms for one’s relationship with God (there are other terms too, of course, such as “friend”). Might Muslim suicide bombers be able to adjust this language to fit their purposes? (Islammeans “submission” in Arabic.)

3. How is thinking a kind of preparation for death? (124-127). Some of this might sound strange, but recall when you are trying to concentrate on a difficult task, and keep in mind that by “body” here he is including psychological processes: perceptions, desires, aversions, etc. Or you might recall the training it takes to learn how to practice Buddhist or Hindu forms of meditation. In these cases the attentionhas to be developed, and that is a crucial element of what Plato here is calling “soul.” If attention is at the core of the human person, what effect does our modern society have on attention (think of the media, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, advertising, etc.). Does society try to enhance our attention or weaken it and direct it toward consumption of material goods and being materially successful?

 

4.   He says in passing that wars are based on the body and its desires, and “all wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth” (127). What do you think of this? Do you believe that the desire for wealth (land, spices, natural resources) plays a significant part in global politics and wars? Whose interests do wars usually serve? Those of yourself, poor people, the middle class, or more often the wealthy and powerful?

 

5.   Plato was the first to notice that philosophic thinking often has a recollective dimension (137-143). When we think about fundamental concepts such as goodness, truth, beauty, etc., these are things of which we already have some understanding. Moreover, these concepts are not objects lying in the world like a stone or a stick. The idea of “equality” is not the same thing as two equal sticks. Indeed, we can only judge two sticks to be “equal” if we already have some idea of “equality” (139). Think of some other examples similar to equality and test Plato on this. (Hint: how about other mathematical concepts, or quite generally, the meanings of words.)

 

6.   Plato has two discussions of life after death (149-154 and 186-195). The true Hades, Plato says, is like the soul, pure and invisible; there the good soul goes into “the presence of the good and wise God” (149). It is well to keep in mind Plato’s warnings about the limits of language and of human understanding in these matters. Simmias observes that “it is very difficult if not impossible in this life to achieve certainty about these questions,” and that often the best we can do is “to select the best and most dependable theory that human intelligence can supply” (155). And Socrates asserts that he himself is telling a “story” (187), and the Greek word used here is mythos. Socrates later cautions that “no reasonable man ought to insist that the facts are exactly as I have described them…. We should use such accounts to enchant ourselves with” (194). What does this suggest about the importance ofmetaphor (where one kind of thing is used to describe another, e.g., “the road was a ribbon of moonlight”) and story for religion. Do religious people sometimes claim more confidence in literalinterpretations of scriptures (the Quran, the Bible, etc.) than is warranted?

7.  Plato has a highly moral concept of the afterlife: the soul “can have no escape from … except by becoming as good and wise as it possibly can” (187). He later goes on to describe basically three states of the soul after death:

 

(1)     being purified and reborn (192)

(2)     going into the depths of Tartarus “from whence they emerge no more” (193)

(3)     those who have lived holy lives (194)

 

What do you think of Plato’s faith here? Is it morally sound? Is it blind to social concerns, or does the idea of rebirth encourage responsible behavior now?

 

 

8. In Socrates’ death scene, at one point Socrates says: “I am this Socrates who is talking to you now (and not the corpse which will soon be)” (195). Plato here gives a very “communicative” view of the human person: the human being is one who speaks. What do you think of this as a fundamental description of the person? Can you relate this to the biblical metaphor for God’s creative activity in Genesis 1:3 and John’s description of Jesus in John 1:1-5, 14?


9.  Socrates’ last words have to do with a religious offering to Aesclepius, the god of healing (198). Socrates was not just another man for Plato. What was he?

 

10.  Socrates was executed by the state for impiety and corrupting the youth. Jesus was executed for sedition, but with religious involvement also. Compare the death of Socrates and the death of Jesus. Is there a link between the state itself and homicide? Religion and killing? (Recall ancient sacrifices of animals and people).

 

Module 4 Assignments

Read Summa Theological I, 46:2 ad 7: “Whether it is an article of faith that the world began?” and 2:3: “Whether God exists?”

Read Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations I and II.

Research Francis Bacon, Copernicus and Galileo (see below).

The following will open the reading assignments for Saint Thomas Aquinas and Descartes:

1.  Click on Module 4.

2.  Click on GO TO arrow and this will open the drop down box.
3.  Click on Reading/Journaling.
4.  Click on the links in blue.  

Links in blue:

Summa Theologica I, 46:2 ad 7, “Whether it is an article of faith that the world began?”

Summa Theologica I, 2:3: “Whether God exists?”

Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations I and II

Click on each of the embedded Questions.

Example:  Click on Guided Reading 5/Questions/Journaling

For the assignment on Bacon, Copernicus Galileo click on Guided Reading 8/Journaling.

 

Conduct an Internet search on these thinkers, starting with Francis Bacon, and make a short entry in your journal about each of them.

 

 

Reading/Journaling

The following readings will be used in this module:

 

         Thomas Aquinas, Saint. (1225?-1274) Summa Theologica I, 46:2, ad 7: “Whether it is an article of faith that the world began?” This stands for: Part I, Question 46, Article 2, Reply to Objection 7. You should ignore the objections at first and instead read the body of the article where he begins “On the contrary,” and then goes on to “I answer that.” This gives what he actually believes, as do the Replies to the objections.

 

         The next reading is in I, 2:3: “Whether God exists?” Read the First, Second, Third and Fifth “Ways.”
 

         Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditations I and II.

 

The next pages in the module will guide you through those readings and direct you to the sections that are important. There will be guided questions and journaling prompts embedded within the guided readings

 

Guided Reading

 

In this reading (ad 7), first find his example of a stone and a stick and his last example of a man, and the sun, etc. These two are the same kind of example.

 

Now find his example of where there is an “order of only one cause.” Think of other examples, like reproduction in animals and plants.

 

This last series can, says Aquinas, go on and on forever.

 

But what about this series: you, your parents, the human race, the earth ….? Finish this series out …

 

What did you end up with? What did you put after “cosmos” or “universe”? Maybe nothing. Aquinas put “God” as First Cause. He thought this move was as natural as thinking the earth required the sun for its life. And this series is very different from the other: here there is an expanding framework of explanation, whereas the other is more like a series of dominoes where causes “hold only one grade,” in Aquinas’ language. He’s thinking the stone and stick example involves different “grades” of cause, rather like layman, priest, bishop, pope, a hierarchy of causes. Here too the causation is simultaneous, like the sun shining on the earth, not just “once upon a time” way back when. God’s creative activity is present now, in each moment. For Aquinas, if there were no God there would be nothing now at all.

 

Now read I, 2:3, the first two “Ways” in the body of the article. These are from motion and from causation,

and they are basically the same as in 45:2. You’ll even find the same kind of “staff and hand” example in the

First Way.

 

Questions: What do you make of all this? Does it seem to be a successful proof? Does it work for you? Might

it work for you and not for someone else? What would Aquinas say to the Big Bang theory, where it is said

that the cosmos exploded from a singular entity (like the reverse of a star collapsing into a “black hole”?

 

Aquinas’ Third Way basically argues that if there were no God, no “Necessary Being,” then since thepossibility of nonexistence in an infinitely old universe would come to be realized, there in fact would be nothing now! And if there were no God and nothing at all, there would again be nothing now since nothing comes from nothing.

 

Some people prefer this proof, but Aquinas thought it was much less obvious than the others. Feel free to comment on it if you wish.

 

The Fifth Way rests on the perception of order in the universe, and says that the source of this order is God

 







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