Thursday, October 12, 2006
Love and war in Plato's Republic, Book V
'Then what about anyone who has distinguished himself for bravery? Do you agree that he should first be duly crowned, while the army is still in the field, by his fellow-campaigners, by young men and children in turn?'
'And that they should shake his hand?'
'I agree again.'
'But I'm afraid you won't agree to what I'm going to say next.'
'What is it?'
'That he should exchange kisses with them.'
'I think it's the best idea of all,' said Glaucon. 'And what is more, I should add to your law a clause that would forbid anyone to refuse his kisses for the rest of the campaign, as an encouragement to those in love with a boy or girl to be all the keener to win an award for bravery.'
Definite hint of Monty Python, methinks.
Does that premise square with your personal experiences? I'm trying to think of really rouge-ish philosophers. Louis Althuser comes to mind and I think many would mention Sartre and Russell. Heidegger also. Antonio Negri perhaps, if he counts as a philosopher.
You're not a philosophy student are you?
I did read up to the end of the education bits of the Republic at the time, and I'm sure I sat an exam on it, so presumably that was enough for my purposes at that time.
Actually I just remembered that I went back to the Republic when I was about to start off on Aristotle's Politics but felt I should have read the former before the latter, in the same way that I feel I can't have a crack at Ulysses until I've read the Odyssey.
Hold on, that could be interpreted as me having betrayed my ignorance of matters philosophical, rather than as an enquiry.
If you wanna read something absolutely fantastic by Plato, read the Gorgias (in the Zeyl translation preferrably - it's cheap too.) I just finished teaching it for the forth time - always such a treat. The Symposium and the Theaetetus are also pretty awesome.
If you liked the Socrates/Thrasymachus confrontation in the Republic, you'll love the Gorgias. (That last sentence was my attempt to mimic advertising language.) A lot of people think it's Plato's most artistically successful work, and I'm inclined to agree. The Republic is, sadly, not an artistic success, for all its brilliance. The Gorgias, on the other hand, is utterly perfect.
As for the Symposium, Alcibaides's speech is just one the best things ever written.
Is the Alcibiades speech the one about men and women once being single beings?