In this video, I continue my analysis of Book I of Plato's Republic by turning to Socrates' famous function argument. Thrasymachus has argued that justice is merely an instrumental rather than intrinsic good, and Socrates sets forth a brief but powerful response in the closing sections of book I of the Republic. His response turns on the classical conception of excellence (arete) and its relation to natural kinds and the functions that they ground. To the classical mind, the essence of a thing determines its standards of excellence. An excellent eye will see well, an excellent ear will hear well, and an excellent horse will run well. Essences determine the end or telos to which a particular instance of a kind must strive. We also discuss Aristotle's reflections on the subject.
A corresponding essay can be found on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/plato-on-nature-function-and-virtue/
The image used in the thumbnail is from Jaques-Louis David and is in the public domain. It can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Napoleon_at_the_Great_St._Bernard_-_Jacques-Louis_David_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg
The images used throughout the video (not taken myself) are in the public domain and can be found at the following sites:
In this video, I begin a series of talks on Plato's Republic, one of Plato's most memorable works. In this first lecture, I consider Plato's response to Thrasymachus in Book I. Thrasymachus contends that justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger: It is merely the system of morality imposed by rulers over the ruled. Plato, through the character of Socrates, argues against this position, showing that it is undermined by the nature and structure of craft (techne). I then consider how the contemporary Thrasymachean might respond in the voice of Marxism, feminism, or one of the many cottage industries of critical theories, and I offer a pair of responses to such challenges. The first simply notes that the modern Thrasymacheans have only, at best, pointed to the current state of affairs. They have not shown that Plato's contention was contradictory and hence impossible. As a result, the contest between Platonism and Thrasymacheanism becomes a matter of vision and will. The second points to Plato's argument that the perfectly unjust society would be self-undermining. The Thrasymachean vision of the world is ultimately impossible.
You can find a corresponding essay on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/against-thrasymachus-republic-book-i/
The picture used in the thumbnail of this video is Giotto's The Casting Out of the Moneychangers and is in the public domain. It can be found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-27-_-_Expulsion_of_the_Money-changers_from_the_Temple.jpg
In this video, I examine the life and teachings of the Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles (c.494-434 BC). I adopt the same approach to his work as I did to Pythagoras. Since he lived in an age in which mythos and logos formed an organic whole, one cannot adequately grasp his philosophy by demythologizing it. In the first part of the video, I set forth a few key aspects of his life, such as his aristocratic background and his claims to magical power. He is even said to have been deified and ascended to heaven (or, alternatively, to have thrown himself into a volcano).
I then turn to examine his philosophy as it is articulated in his two major poems: On Nature and On the Purifications.
Despite its name and the way it is often taught in Anglo-American philosophy classes, On Nature cannot be understood as articulating a form of reductive materialism. Rather, I point out that he explicitly rejects such a view, claiming that Nature must be understood as a whole, and that, to do so, one must grasp Being as it appears in the appearance of things. It is in this context that he articulates his famous theory of the four roots of fire, air, water, and earth, and the powers of Aphrodite and Neikos which relate them.
On the Purifications sets forth a vision of how we should live in such a world. He provides an explanation for suffering, claiming that we are daimons who have been exiled to this material world for some previous crime. He also fashions a doctrine of metempsychosis, and grounds an ethic of nonviolence upon it.
For a more detailed description, you can find a corresponding essay on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/the-life-and-philosophy-of-empedocles/
In this video, we continue our examination of the philosophy of Empedocles by looking to how in inspired the Romantic poet and philosopher Friedrich Hölderlin. Hölderlin had a deep affection for Greek culture and attempted to merge its mythology with the flagging Christian mythos of his day. Hölderlin not only resonated with the figure of Empedocles as one who, like himself, united poetry and philosophy, but he grew fascinated by the story of his death. There was something about the sage's salto mortale from mount Aetna that stuck in Hölderlin's mind. It grew to take on a world historical significance for him, and he identified it with the outworking of fate and the rise and fall of cultures. In this video we examine some of the key themes that emerge in the three drafts of Hölderlin 's Trauerspiel (Mourning Play) on the death of Empedocles. We also examine some of the concepts underlying it that he attempted to work out in a series of essay fragments: The Tragic Ode, The General Basis of Tragic Drama, The Ground of Empedocles, and The Fatherland in Decline. David's Krell's English translation has been used throughout, though modified in some places.
You can find a corresponding essay on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/holderlins-reflections-on-the-death-of-empedocles-a-mourning-play/
The images used to create the thumbnail for this video are in the public domain. The first is the Death of Empedocles by Salvator Rosa and can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empedocles#/media/File:The_Death_of_Empedocles_by_Salvator_Rosa.jpg
The second is the Hölderlindenkmal im Alten Botanischen Garten in Tübingen and can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_H%C3%B6lderlin#/media/File:H%C3%B6lderlindenkmal_-_1881.jpg
In this video, I turn from examining the doctrines and teachings of the Pythagoreans to investigating their practices. I begin by highlighting the differences between the conception of philosophy popularly used today and those attributed to Pythagoras by Porphyry and Iamblichus, and making a brief,, but necessary digression to repudiate mind brain reductionism and clarify Pythagoras's view of the soul, drawing a parallel to phenomenology and the notion of transcendental subjectivity.
I then begin to examine some of the esoteric symbols and maxims handed down in the Pythagorean tradition, such as: "do not go beyond the balance, tear not to pieces the crown, eat not the heart, do not poke fire with a sword, do not go by the public way, help a man take up a burden, but not to lay it down, wear not the image of god in your ring, etc." You can find a more comprehensive list of such these sayings and maxims here: https://sacred-texts.com/cla/gvp/gvp11.htm
I go on to explain the underlying moral meaning of these maxims, showing how they parallel particular injunctions in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition and in Daoism. In particular I draw an analogy to the Daoist concept of naturalness as illustrated in the story of cook Ding recounted by Zhuangzi. I also suggest that we are better served by such Pythagorean rules than by the rules for life offered by today's self-help gurus.
Finally, I conclude by setting forth a Pythagorean meditation meant to be undertaken before sleep. It can be found in the Golden Verses, a translation of which you can find here https://sacred-texts.com/cla/gvp/gvp03.htm In this exercise we are asked to recount the narrative of our day to ourselves, celebrating where we have done well, and reproving ourselves for and finding ways to improve those areas where we have done ill. I suggest that such Pythagorean exercises represent a higher and middle way between neurotic perfectionism and the platitudes of positive psychology. I also point out the different, theurgic, purposes for which Pythagoreans undertook such exercises.
You can find a written account of the subject of this lecture in my essay here: http://premieretat.com/pythagorean-practice/
Also relevant is my parallel criticism of the concept of value as it is employed by the self-help, coaching, positive psychology, and therapeutic industry: http://premieretat.com/value-in-therapy/
And my explanation of the essential connection between wisdom and mourning: http://premieretat.com/the-iliad-and-the-wisdom-of-mourning/
The picture used in the thumbnail of this video is by Geoffrey Tory (1529) and is in the public domain. It can be found here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geoffrey_Tory_Ypsilon.jpg
In this video we examine another core doctrine of Pythagoreanism: the idea that the universe is grounded in number and constitutes a cosmic harmony. You can find a corresponding essay on my blog: http://premieretat.com/the-pythagorean-doctrine-of-number/
In this video, I explain the Pythagorean doctrine of Metempsychosis, and show how it grounds some of the ethical practices of Pythagoreanism and overturns the Homeric conception of the afterlife.
You can find a corresponding essay on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/metempsychosis-the-pythagorean-doctrine-of-the-soul/
In this video we examine another core doctrine of Pythagoreanism: the idea that the universe is grounded in number and constitutes a cosmic harmony.
You can find a corresponding essay on my blog: http://premieretat.com/the-pythagorean-doctrine-of-number/
In this video, I consider three life principles that can be derived from Porphyry's Letter to Marcella. A corresponding essay can be found on my blog here: http://premieretat.com/a-philosophical-epistle/
In this video, I argue that philosophy is needed to survive the civilizational crisis that confronts us and outline four core philosophical practices. You can find a corresponding essay at my website here: http://premieretat.com/lazy-enlightenment-vs-philosophical-practice/