Tag Archives: Socrates

Perception of a Dress

A recent picture of a dress has taken the internet by storm. Someone posted a picture of a dress online and many people view the dress as blue and gold and a comparable amount of people view the dress as white and black. This simple dress sparked hot disputes all over the world. Although this discussion of the optical illusion dress seems totally irrelevant to our discussion of knowledge, as Megan Garber points out in her article in the Atlantic, it creates a point of discussion where people discuss where they fit into the world.  Continue reading

How are prudence and experience related?

In Book VI of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle intensively discusses knowledge in the form of Prudence, a form of virtue. In this section, he provides his take on the debate between teaching vs. experience as means to achieve something, the similar issue we face in Plato’s Protagoras in which Socrates argues whether good is learned or experienced. Unlike Socrates, Aristotle clearly states his opinion on this issue, which is discussed below.   Continue reading

Censorship for the children

In an age in which freedom of expression is revered as an undeniable right, Socrates’ suggestions about education in The Republic seem to violate the basic principles of liberty and freedom. “Then we must first of all, it seems, supervise the storytellers. We’ll select their stories whenever they are fine or beautiful and reject them when they aren’t,”(377c) suggests Socrates. A modern-day person will most certainly brand this as unwarranted censorship. However, I believe that modern-day educators can learn something important from Socrates.

Childhood is a critical period in a person’s development. Values, principles, and habits developed in this period persist throughout a person’s lifetime. According to Socrates, “it’s at that time that it is most malleable and takes on any pattern one wishes to impress on it.”(377b) A child’s moral sense is not fully developed; he or she sometimes cannot distinguish the good from the bad. Consequently, it is completely logical and reasonable to expose children to the good and justice, and deny them access to the bad and evil. With the advent of the Internet, children can easily access billions of webpages, images, and videos. A child can easily pick up any bad habit or principle off the Internet; the opportunities are endless. As a result, carefully censoring the Internet for children is a necessity.

To rid the world of evil, you don’t work with adults who have already developed their values and principles, but with children who are developing theirs. The world would be a much better place if every single child was raised in an environment that promotes justice and goodness.

“Naturally Suited”

At this time last year, I was struggling to complete my college applications. I was was prompted to ask myself: what was I good at? What should I apply myself to? What would be my role in society? I didn’t know what to respond.

Socrates, on the other hand, has an answer these questions Continue reading

A Cumbersome Obstacle to Education: Censorship

In Book II and Book III of the Republic, Glaucon and Socrates discuss the implication of justice and how education can help create a model citizen who could identify what is just. Continue reading

Are Professions Predestined?

Are people born with an inclination to do a certain job? Plato (through Socrates) believes this is the case (370b-c). He says, “one man is naturally fitted for one task, and another for another.” This means that fate determines what your profession will be before you ever set foot in school. If you don’t do this job, you are not being the best that you can be.

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The Middle Ground

While reading the passages of Meno, I wondered if what they were arguing about, whether being good is taught or inherent, was a completely valid argument. I do not believe that being good can solely be taught, nor do I believe that being good is solely due to nature. It is somewhere between the spectrum of these two extremes.

Firstly, we must define what good is. I will stipulate that good means doing what is morally correct. Understanding what the morally correct thing to do in a situation is not inherent. We are taught moral standards that allow us to judge whether or not our actions would be right. However, what is inherent is the ability to act on the situation, or having the will to do so. We all have different capacities of will, and it is not something that can be taught. Yet motivation only gives reasons for an action, which can affect the outcome, but it does not effect will itself. Will is the unadulterated thought process that influences our actions, and to motivate is to adulterate these actions. Will is what will initially influences our decision, and, without the time to think through a course of action, it is the sole influence on it. Yet, as I previously stated, motivation can influence an outcome of a scenario, and motivation can be, in a sense, taught. For example, someone can teach you the benefits of exercising, or eating nutritiously, and this will affect your decision to do these thing. But it is a combination of a person’s will to act on this and the motivation from the knowledge that they gathered that will ultimately effect the pursuit of an outcome.

People must be taught what is morally good. It is not innate as will is. We do not inherently understand that violence is bad, but it must be taught to us. We also have to learn the distinction from bad violence and violence that is acceptable, such as self-defense or protecting someone. Just like motivation, morals can be taught to effect the outcome of a decision.

If we were to discuss whether or not people are born or taught to be good in Menos’ sense of the word, which is that they serve a specific part of society, the argument would change. In Menos’ stipulation of the word good, good is the quality that increases the intrinsic worth of a person in a specific field. And thus, it is mostly taught. What it means to be a good pacifist is to never react in a violent manner. Yet, the instinct of self-preservation is inherent, and instinct and what is morally good will contradict. So it must be taught to pacifists that no violence is morally good, and, in this case, this is something that we are not born knowing.

In conclusion, the outcomes of this argument is determined by how you are currently using the word good. Good, as in morally correct, has more of a middle ground between what is innate and what is taught when it comes to making a decision, while good in Menos’ sense of the word is skewed more to what is taught.

Socrates’ Disastrous Implication

At 390 c, Socrates invokes a double standard seemingly very contrary to his prior discussion of justice, peace, and virtue. Here, he claims that the ruler of the city has the right to lie to its citizens at times of emergency, whereas the individual should never be untruthful in any situation.

I believe that this is a very ironic statement, in that it goes against much of what Socrates stands for. As a supporter of the power and importance of individualism, this claim that the collective is worth more than the individual in the long run is highly contradictory to much of what he has philosophized before.

Although this is a small point from the several selections we were instructed to read, I cannot help but say that I am very surprised by this claim and somewhat discouraged by it. Socrates has always struck me as a philosopher that encourages the individual to find his or her own path in life and then follow it based off what he or she holds dear in this life, and the value system he or she has created. I would never have expected him to say that the individual must adhere to the will of the city rulers for the greater good, especially if it goes against him or her’s beliefs, and create such a double standard between the collective and the individual.

In my opinion, both the city rulers and individual should be challenged to always be truthful. Just because the city has some control over the lives of its citizens, such as in creating policy and enforcing it, and protecting its people, it should not be given free reign to impose practices based upon deception and dishonesty, even if it is seemingly in the best interest of the people at the time. If the government is told that it is acceptable to lie in times of emergency for the sake of the “greater good,” or collective, such direction would prove disastrous, as it could assume total power, leading to corruption and tyranny in the future.

Although I found the majority of the selected reading to be very thought-provoking and beneficial, I have to say that I was concerned about Socrates’ statement concerning deception, and the city rulers’ right to it when they think it is “necessary,” as its implication degrades the liberty of the individual and allows the government the possibility of assuming total power and forming a tyranny that further damages such free will.

Grey Area

After reading the dialogue from  Plato’s Republic, I have found myself disagreeing with certain aspects of Socrates’ arguments. Particularly, Socrates makes claims about people that are black and white, but in reality people tend to exist in the grey area. Continue reading

The Power of Definitons

The passage by Plato about the conversation between Meno and Socrates commences with a sentence that distinguishes teaching from practice and experience. Although these have different meanings, they are not contrary ideas as the passage seems to suggest. That’s not to say that these are the same or always used together. Both teaching and experience can serve the purpose of learning independently of one another. For example, a child’s mother may tell him that the skinny limbs on a tree will break easily. This is one way for the child to learn this fact. Another way, of course, would be to physically snap the thin branch of a tree and learn from experience. In this case, experience is different from practice and the two words are not interchangeable.

Sometimes, the two methods are used in congruence with one another, and often in these situations practice and experience are closely related. An example of this would be learning to shoot a soccer ball.  The coach teaches the players to strike the ball with their laces, how to aim, and how to exert the proper amount of power. The players then practice applying these skills, and in this way, gain experience.

All of this is also assuming that teaching involves a third party. A person could teach themselves the notes and keys on a piano and practice reading music and playing songs to gain experience and through that teach, practice, experience, and learn to play piano all at once.

Overall Socrates offers a very narrow definition of the words teaching, practice, and experience and then treats them as true and factual and applies them to his arguments. Looking at wider or more flexible definitions for his words calls into question Socrates’ proceeding arguments.