Friday, September 9, 2016

Reading #21: Feser: Kalam and Time

The Cosmological and Kalam Arguments

1.  What is the Kalam argument?  What is cosmological argument and why is Kalam a kind of cosmological argument?
2.  Why did Aquinas reject the Kalam argument?  In what way does it fail to address Greek Dualism?  What is the difference between showing matter is dependent on God and that matter had a beginning?
3.  What is an actual infinite and a potential infinite?  Why does Feser think the hotel analogy fails?  In what way does this relate to theories of time and what are these theories?
4.  What does it mean to say that Craig's version of the Kalam argument is too closely tied to scientific discoveries?
5.  Is there another form of the cosmological argument that shows not only the dependence of matter on God but also that matter had a beginning?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reading #20: Shankara: Maya

Shankara’s views on Maya or Avidya:

“It is something positive … though not real. It is called positive in order to emphasize the fact that it is not merely negative. It has two aspects. In its negative aspect it conceals … Reality and acts as a screen to hide it. In its positive aspect it projects … the world of plurality on the Brahman-Ground. It is non-apprehension as well as misapprehension” (Sharma p. 274).

“It is indescribable and indefinable for it is neither real nor unreal nor both. It is not real, for it has no existence apart from Brahman; it is not unreal, for it projects the world of appearance. It is not real, for it vanishes at the dawn of knowledge; it is not unreal, for it is true as long as it lasts. It is not real to constitute a limit to Brahman and yet it is real enough to give rise to the world of appearance. And it is not both real and unreal, for this conception is self-contradictory” (Sharma p. 274-275).

Sharma says: “The words ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ are taken by Shankara in their absolute sense. Real means real for all time and Brahman alone can be real in this sense. Similarly, unreal means absolutely unreal like the hare’s horn, which this phenomenal world is not. Hence this world is neither real nor unreal. This shows its self-contradictory and therefore incomprehensible nature…. Shankara’s intention is perfectly clear – none can condemn this world as unreal; he who does it, is not qualified to do so and he who is qualified to do so, will not do so, for he would have risen above language and finite thought” (Sharma p.279).

Shankara’s views on Brahman: “Brahman is the only Reality. It is absolutely indeterminate and non-dual. It is beyond speech and mind. It is indescribable because no description of it can be complete. The best description of it is through the negative formula of ‘neti neti’ or ‘not this, not this’. Yet Brahman is not an abyss of non-entity, because it is the Supreme Self and stands selfrevealed as the background of all affirmations and denials. The moment we try to bring this Brahman within the categories of intellect or try to make this ultimate subject an object of our thought, we miss its essential nature” (Sharma p. 280).

Sharma, Chandrahar. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers; 1987.

Reading #19: Buddha: The Arrow

There is a parable of the poisoned arrow attributed to Buddha. 

1.  Why don't the origins or the nature of the poisoned arrow matter?  Is this analogous to not knowing the nature or purpose of the world?
2.  Are there some metaphysical truths that are important to know, and others that are useless speculation?  How can this be determined?
3.  What does it mean for something to be useful?
4.  Presumably there are many different Dharmas, or ways of living, how can we know which to follow without getting involved in metaphysical discussions? 

"He [Buddha] used the following parable to illustrate the attitude of those who cannot distinguish between what is useful and what is not:

'Suppose someone was hit by a poisoned arrow and his friends and relatives found a doctor able to remove the arrow. If this man were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out until I know whether the person who had shot it was a priest, a prince or a merchant, his name and his family. I will not have it taken out until I know what kind of bow was used and whether the arrowhead was an ordinary one or an iron one.' That person would die before all these things are ever known to him.'

In the same way, those who say they will not practice the Dharma until they know whether the world is eternal or not, infinite or not, will die before these questions are ever answered."

Thích Nhất Hạnh gives a similar version: 

The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, "Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same." Another time he said, "Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first." Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.

Nhất Hạnh, ThíchKapleau, Philip (2005). Zen Keys. Three Leaves Press. p. 42.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reading #18: Pierre Bayle: Fideism

From The Third Clarification 

1.  What is incontestable about religion?
2.  What is the basis of authority for religious knowledge?
3.  What is the difference between reason, or the natural light, and revelation?  Why is revelation needed?
4.  How is revelation to be understood?
5.  What philosophers are especially to be avoided?  Give the argument from Bayle that shows these philosophers are self-refuting. What other implications follow from this type of argument?
6. Why can't philosophy help in attaining wisdom and what can?  How can wisdom be identified?
7.  What is faith?  Why is it needed?  What is its relationship to objections from reason?

As the basis of this third clarification, I set fourth at the outset this certain and incontestable maxim that the Christian religion is of a supernatural kind, and that it's basic component is the supreme authority of God proposing mystery to us, not so that we may understand them, but so that we may believe them with all the humility that is due to the infinite being, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. This is the polar star of all the discussions and all the disputes about the articles of religion that God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

From this it necessarily follows that the tribunal of philosophy is incompetent to judge controversies between Christians, since they are to be carried only to the tribunal of revelation.

Every dispute about the question religious prerogatives ought to be rejected from the very first word. No one ought to be allowed to examine whether it is necessary to believe what God orders us to believe. This ought to be accepted as a first principle in matters of religion. It is up to the metaphysicians to examine whether there is a God and whether he is infallible; but Christians, insofar as they are Christians, ought to suppose that this is something already decided.

Then it is only a question of fact, namely, whether God requires that we believe this or that. Two sorts of people can have doubts about this, some because they do not believe the Scripture is divine, others because they do not believe that 
the sense of Scripture is such and such. 

Every dispute, then, the Christians can engage in with the philosophers is on this question of fact, whether Scripture was inspired by God. If the proofs offered by the Christians on this subject do not convince the philosophers, the controversy is to be discontinued.


Now, of all the philosophers who are not to be permitted to dispute about the mysteries of Christianity until they have accepted revelation as a criterion, there are none as unworthy of being heard as the followers of Pyrrhonism; for they are people who profess to acknowledge no certain sign that distinguishes the true from the false; so that if, by chance, they come across the truth, they can never be sure that it was the truth. They are not satisfied with opposing the testimony of the senses, the maxims of morality, the rules of logic, and the axioms of metaphysics.


All ages have required and will require that knowledge of the revealed truths be sought by different means than knowledge of philosophy. Philosophy does not cure the mental wavering that ought to be cured if one hopes by prayer to obtain true wisdom. 


Nothing is more necessary than faith, and nothing is more important than to make people aware of the price of this theological virtue. Now, what is there that is more suitable for making us aware of this than meditating on the attitude that distinguishes it from the other acts of the understanding? It's essence consists in binding us to the revealed truth by a strong conviction, and in binding us to them solely by the motive of God's authority. Those who believe in the immortality of the soul on the basis of philosophical reasons are orthodox, but so far they have no share in the faith of which they are speaking. They only have a share in it insofar as they believe this doctrine because God has revealed it to us, and they submit humbly to the voice of God everything that philosophy presents to them that is most plausible for convincing them of the immortality of the soul. Thus, the merit of faith becomes greater in proportion as the revealed truth that is its object surpasses all the powers of our mind; for, as the incomprehensibility of this object increases by the greater number of maxims of the natural light that oppose it, we have to sacrifice to God's authority a stronger reluctance of reason; and consequently we show ourselves more submissive to God and we give him greater signs of our respect than if the item were only moderately difficult to believe.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reading #17: John Philoponus: Against the Eternity of the World

John Philoponus: Against the Eternity of the World

John Philoponus lived, studied, and taught in Alexandria in the 6th century.  At that time Alexandria was the pinnacle of academic learning, and Christians and non-Christians argued about beliefs central to each worldview such as the eternity of the world.  He is well known for his arguments against Aristotle and the eternity of the world. Below is a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy where his argument against the eternity of the world is summarized.

1.  Why do Christians believe that the world had a beginning, or is not eternal?
2.  Why do thinkers like Aristotle and Plato believe, or assume, that the world is eternal?  How does this affect their definition and understanding of "God."
3.  John Philoponus does not address every individual eternalist but instead addresses their claims in kind.  How does he do this?  Apply his argument to contemporary eternalists.  
4.  What are the implications for Christianity if: 1) the world is eternal (without beginning) or 2) we cannot know if the world is eternal or created?
5.  Why are eternity and divinity connected so that if the stars are eternal, they are also divine?
6.  Can you give his argument that the world is not eternal?  His argument against a divine 5th element?  Can you find correlations to this 5th element in contemporary eternalists?
7.  Summarize the method of John Philoponus in respect to reason and thinkers like Aristotle.

Summary of his argument from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Philoponus' battle against eternalism may be divided into three stages. The treatise Against Proclusis followed by a second and even more provocative publication, On the Eternity of the World against Aristotle. This work was published c. 530-534 and involved a close scrutiny of the first chapters of Aristotle's On the Heavens (his theory of ether as the fifth element, of which the heavenly bodies are made) and the eighth book of the Physics (arguing for the eternity of time and motion). The third stage is represented by one, perhaps two, non-polemical treatises that have survived in fragments which indicate that numerous arguments against eternity and for creation were arranged in some kind of systematic order.Like the polemic against Proclus, Against Aristotle is mainly devoted to removing obstacles for the creationist. If Aristotle were right about the existence of an immutable fifth element (ether) in the celestial region, and if he were right about motion and time being eternal, any belief in creation would surely be unwarranted. Philoponus succeeds in pointing to numerous contradictions, inconsistencies, fallacies and improbable assumptions in Aristotle's philosophy of nature relating to these claims. Dissecting Aristotle's texts in an unprecedented way, he time and again turns the tables on Aristotle and so paves the way for demonstrative arguments for non-eternity. One such argument is reported by Simplicius (In Phys. 1178,7-1179,26 = Contra Aristotelem, Fr. 132). It relies on three premises: (1) If the existence of something requires the preexistence of something else, then the first thing will not come to be without the prior existence of the second. (2) An infinite number cannot exist in actuality, nor be traversed in counting, nor be increased. (3) Something cannot come into being if its existence requires the preexistence of an infinite number of other things, one arising out of the other. From these not at all un-Aristotelian premises Philoponus deduces that the conception of a temporally infinite universe, understood as a successive causal chain, is impossible. The celestial spheres of Aristotelian theory have different periods of revolution, and in any given number of years they undergo different numbers of revolutions, some larger than others. The assumption of their motion having gone on for all eternity leads to the conclusion that infinity can be increased, even multiplied, which Aristotle too held to be absurd.
The non-polemical anti-eternalist treatises exploit, among others, Aristotle's argument that an infinite power or potentiality (dúnamis) cannot reside in a finite body (Phys. VIII 10). Philoponus infers that since the universe is a finite body, it cannot have the dúnamis to exist for an infinite time. As in the case of his theory of light, this argument involves a shift of meaning. In the context of Aristotle's argument in Phys. VIII 10, dúnamis meant ‘kinetic force’; Philoponus uses the word in the sense of ‘existential capacity’ or ‘fitness to exist’.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reading #16: Plantinga: Warranted Belief

From "Warranted Christian Belief" page 156

"Put in a nutshell, then, a belief has warrant for a person S only if that belief is produced in S by cognitive faculties functioning properly (subject to no dysfunction) in a cognitive environment that is appropriate for S's kind of cognitive faculties, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at truth.  We must add, furthermore, that when a belief meets these conditions and does enjoy warrant, the degree of warrant it enjoys depends on the strength of the belief, the firmness with which S holds it."

1.  Can the cognitive environment in which a cognitive faculty is operating be known by that cognitive faculty in a non-question begging way?
2.  What role does the idea of a design plan play in the definition of warrant?
3.  Why is there a relationship between degree of warrant and firmness of belief?
4.  Consider the relationship between knowing what is good, this definition of warrant, and responsibility.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Reading #15: Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

1.  Why does Aristotle say that happiness is the end of human nature?
2.  What is the highest virtue?
3.  What is contemplation and why does perfect happiness consist in contemplation?
4.  What does it mean to imitate God?
5.  Why will the philosopher be happier than any other?

Book 10

Now that we have spoken of the virtues, the forms of friendship, and the varieties of pleasure, what remains is to discuss in outline the nature of happiness, since this is what we state the end of human nature to be. Our discussion will be the more concise if we first sum up what we have said already. We said, then, that it is not a disposition; for if it were it might belong to some one who was asleep throughout his life, living the life of a plant, or, again, to some one who was suffering the greatest misfortunes. If these implications are unacceptable, and we must rather class happiness as an activity, as we have said before, and if some activities are necessary, and desirable for the sake of something else, while others are so in themselves, evidently happiness must be placed among those desirable in themselves, not among those desirable for the sake of something else; for happiness does not lack anything, but is self-sufficient. Now those activities are desirable in themselves from which nothing is sought beyond the activity. And of this nature virtuous actions are thought to be; for to do noble and good deeds is a thing desirable for its own sake. 

Pleasant amusements also are thought to be of this nature; we choose them not for the sake of other things; for we are injured rather than benefited by them, since we are led to neglect our bodies and our property. But most of the people who are deemed happy take refuge in such pastimes, which is the reason why those who are ready-witted at them are highly esteemed at the courts of tyrants; they make themselves pleasant companions in the tyrants' favourite pursuits, and that is the sort of man they want. Now these things are thought to be of the nature of happiness because people in despotic positions spend their leisure in them, but perhaps such people prove nothing; for virtue and reason, from which good activities flow, do not depend on despotic position; nor, if these people, who have never tasted pure and generous pleasure, take refuge in the bodily pleasures, should these for that reason be thought more desirable; for boys, too, think the things that are valued among themselves are the best. It is to be expected, then, that, as different things seem valuable to boys and to men, so they should to bad men and to good. Now, as we have often maintained, those things are both valuable and pleasant which are such to the good man; and to each man the activity in accordance with his own disposition is most desirable, and, therefore, to the good man that which is in accordance with virtue. Happiness, therefore, does not lie in amusement; it would, indeed, be strange if the end were amusement, and one were to take trouble and suffer hardship all one's life in order to amuse oneself. For, in a word, everything that we choose we choose for the sake of something else-except happiness, which is an end. Now to exert oneself and work for the sake of amusement seems silly and utterly childish. But to amuse oneself in order that one may exert oneself, as Anacharsis puts it, seems right; for amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously. Relaxation, then, is not an end; for it is taken for the sake of activity. 

The happy life is thought to be virtuous; now a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement. And we say that serious things are better than laughable things and those connected with amusement, and that the activity of the better of any two things-whether it be two elements of our being or two men-is the more serious; but the activity of the better is ipso facto superior and more of the nature of happiness. And any chance person-even a slave-can enjoy the bodily pleasures no less than the bestman; but no one assigns to a slave a share in happiness-unless he assigns to him also a share in human life. For happiness does not lie in such occupations, but, as we have said before, in virtuous activities. 

If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us. Whether it be reason or something else that is this element which is thought to be our natural ruler and guide and to take thought of things noble and divine, whether it be itself alsodivine or only the most divine element in us, the activity of this in accordance with its proper virtue will be perfect happiness. That this activity is contemplative we have already said. 

Now this would seem to be in agreement both with what we said before and with the truth. For, firstly, this activity is the best (since not only is reason the best thing in us, but the objects of reason are the best of knowable objects); and secondly, it is the most continuous, since we can contemplate truth more continuously than we can do anything. And we think happiness has pleasure mingled with it, but the activity of philosophic wisdom is admittedly the pleasantest of virtuous activities; at all events the pursuit of it is thought to offer pleasures marvellous for their purity and their enduringness, and it is to be expected that those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire. And the self-sufficiency that is spoken of must belong most to the contemplative activity. For while a philosopher, as well as a just man or one possessing any other virtue, needs the necessaries of life, when they are sufficiently equipped with things of that sort the just man needs people towards whom and with whom he shall act justly, and the temperate man, the brave man, and each of the others is in the same case, but the philosopher, even when by himself, can contemplate truth, and the better the wiser he is; he can perhaps do so better if he has fellow-workers, but still he is the most self-sufficient. And this activity alone would seem to be loved for its own sake; for nothingarises from it apart from the contemplating, while from practical activities we gain more or less apart from the action. And happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace. Now the activity of the practical virtues is exhibited in political or military affairs, but the actions concerned with these seem to be unleisurely. Warlike actions are completely so (for no one chooses to be at war, or provokes war, for the sake of being at war; any one would seem absolutely murderous if he were to make enemies of his friends in order to bring about battle and slaughter); but the action of the statesman is also unleisurely, and-apart from the political action itself-aims at despotic power and honours, or at all events happiness, for him and his fellow citizens-a happiness different from political action, and evidently sought as being different. So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself, and to have its pleasure proper to itself (and this augments the activity), and the self-sufficiency, leisureliness, unweariedness (so far as this is possible for man), and all the other attributes ascribed to the supremely happy man are evidently those connected with this activity, it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life (for none of the attributes of happiness is incomplete). 

But such a life would be too high for man; for it is not in so far as he is man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him; and by so much as this is superior to our composite nature is its activity superior to that which is the exercise of the other kind of virtue. If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life. But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything. This would seem, too, to be each man himself, since it is the authoritative and better part of him. It would be strange, then, if he were to choose not the life of his self but that of something else. And what we said before' will apply now; that which is proper to each thing is by nature best and most pleasant for each thing; for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest. 

But in a secondary degree the life in accordance with the other kind of virtue is happy; for the activities in accordance with this befit our human estate. Just and brave acts, and other virtuous acts, we do in relation to each other, observing our respective duties with regard to contracts and services and all manner of actions and with regard to passions;and all of these seem to be typically human. Some of them seem even to arise from the body, and virtue of character to be in many ways bound up with the passions. Practical wisdom, too, is linked to virtue of character, and this to practical wisdom, since the principles of practical wisdom are in accordance with the moral virtues and rightness in morals is in accordance with practical wisdom. Being connected with the passions also, the moral virtues must belong to our composite nature; and the virtues of our composite nature are human; so, therefore, are the life and the happiness which correspond to these. The excellence of the reason is a thing apart; we must be content to say this much about it, for to describe it precisely is a task greater than our purpose requires. It would seem, however, also to need external equipment but little, or less than moralvirtue does. Grant that both need the necessaries, and do so equally, even if the statesman's work is the more concerned with the body and things of that sort; for there will be little difference there; but in what they need for the exercise of their activities there will be much difference. The liberal man will need money for the doing of his liberal deeds, and the just man too will need it for the returning of services (for wishes are hard to discern, and even people who are not just pretend to wish to act justly); and the brave man will need power if he is to accomplish any of the acts that correspond to his virtue, and the temperate man will need opportunity; for how else is either he or any of the others to be recognized? It is debated, too, whether the will or the deed is more essential to virtue, which is assumed to involve both; it is surely clear that its perfectioninvolves both; but for deeds many things are needed, and more, the greater and nobler the deeds are. But the man who is contemplating the truth needs no such thing, at least with a view to the exercise of his activity; indeed they are, one may say, even hindrances, at all events to his contemplation; but in so far as he is a man and lives with a number of people, he chooses to do virtuous acts; he will therefore need such aids to living a human life. 

But that perfect happiness is a contemplative activity will appear from the following consideration as well. We assume the gods to be above all other beings blessed and happy; but what sort of actions must we assign to them? Acts of justice? Will not the gods seem absurd if they make contracts and return deposits, and so on? Acts of a brave man, then, confronting dangers and running risks because it is noble to do so? Or liberal acts? To whom will they give? It will be strange if they are really to have money or anything of the kind. And what would their temperate acts be? Is not such praise tasteless, since they have no bad appetites? If we were to run through them all, the circumstances of action would be found trivial and unworthy of gods. Still, every one supposes that they live and therefore that they are active; we cannot suppose them to sleep like Endymion. Now if you take away from a living being action, and still more production, what is left but contemplation? Therefore the activity of God, which surpasses all others in blessedness, must be contemplative; and of human activities, therefore, that which is most akin to this must be most of the nature of happiness. 

This is indicated, too, by the fact that the other animals have no share in happiness, being completely deprived of such activity. For while the whole life of the gods is blessed, and that of men too in so far as some likeness of such activity belongs to them, none of the other animals is happy, since they in no way share in contemplation. Happinessextends, then, just so far as contemplation does, and those to whom contemplation more fully belongs are more truly happy, not as a mere concomitant but in virtue of the contemplation; for this is in itself precious. Happiness, therefore, must be some form of contemplation. 

But, being a man, one will also need external prosperity; for our nature is not self-sufficient for the purpose of contemplation, but our body also must be healthy and must have food and other attention. Still, we must not think that the man who is to be happy will need many things or great things, merely because he cannot be supremely happy without external goods; for self-sufficiency and action do not involve excess, and we can do noble acts without ruling earth and sea; for even with moderate advantages one can act virtuously (this is manifest enough; for private persons are thought to do worthy acts no less than despots-indeed even more); and it is enough that we should have so much as that; for the life of the man who is active in accordance with virtue will be happy. Solon, too, was perhaps sketching well the happy man when he described him as moderately furnished with externals but as having done (as Solon thought) the noblest acts, and lived temperately; for one can with but moderate possessions do what one ought. Anaxagoras also seems to have supposed the happy man not to be rich nor a despot, when he said that he would not be surprised if the happy man were to seem to most people a strange person; for they judge by externals, since these are all they perceive. The opinions of the wise seem, then, to harmonize with our arguments. But while even suchthings carry some conviction, the truth in practical matters is discerned from the facts of life; for these are the decisive factor. We must therefore survey what we have already said, bringing it to the test of the facts of life, and if it harmonizes with the facts we must accept it, but if it clashes with them we must suppose it to be mere theory. Now he who exercises his reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind and most dear to the gods. For if the gods have any care for human affairs, as they are thought to have, it would be reasonable both that they should delight in that which was best and most akin to them (i.e. reason) and that they should reward those who love and honour this most, as caring for the things that are dear to them and acting both rightly and nobly. And that all these attributes belong most of all to the philosopher is manifest. He, therefore, is the dearest to the gods. And he who is that will presumably be also the happiest; so that in this way too the philosopher will more than any other be happy. 

Reading #14: The Apology

The Apology, Plato

1.  What are the two charges brought against Socrates?
2.  How does Socrates respond to each of these?
3.  What did Socrates think the oracle meant in calling him the most wise?
4.  Who did Socrates question about wisdom?
5.  Why did Socrates want wisdom?
6.  What verdict did Socrates think should be given and why?
7.  What punishment did Socrates think should be given to him and why?
8.  Why wasn't Socrates afraid of death?
9.  What did Socrates ask be done for his sons?  Why?
10.  What is the Socratic method and how can it arrive at knowledge?  At wisdom?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Reading #13: Thrasymacus

From Plato's Republic, Book 1

1.  Why does Thrasymacus think that the unjust life is better than the just life?
2.  In what way does the analogy of the shepherd show that a ruler works for the interests or benefits of the ruled and not for himself?
3.  What kind of pay would a good ruler want and why?
4.  Why does Thrasymachus say that justice is sublime simplicity?
5.  What is the aim, or goal, of the just man?
6.  What does it mean to say that the various arts all aim at some excellence?
7.  Why is the knower wise and good and the fool unwise?
8.  What is the end or goal of the soul?  What are the examples given of the horse, eyes, and ears?
9.  How does Socrates support the conclusion that the just soul is happy and blessed and the unjust soul miserable?
10.  What is the response of Thrasymachus to this argument and what does that response illustrate about the two possible responses to reason and a sound argument?

When we had got to this point in the argument, and every one saw that the definition of justice had been completely upset, Thrasymachus, instead of replying to me, said: Tell me, Socrates, have you got a nurse? 

Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather to be answering? 

Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose: she has not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep. 

What makes you say that? I replied. 

Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens or tends the sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of states, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep, and that they are not studying their own advantage day and night. Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about the just and unjust as not even to know that justice and the just are in reality another's good; that is to say, the interest of the ruler and stronger, and the loss of the subject and servant; and injustice the opposite; for the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own. Consider further, most foolish Socrates, that the just is always a loser in comparison with the unjust. First of all, in private contracts: wherever the unjust is the partner of the just you will find that, when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always more and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings with the State: when there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income; and when there is anything to be received the one gains nothing and the other much. Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is the just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, and getting nothing out of the public, because he is just; moreover he is hated by his friends and acquaintance for refusing to serve them in unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is more apparent; and my meaning will be most clearly seen if we turn to that highest form of injustice in which the criminal is the happiest of men, and the sufferers or those who refuse to do injustice are the most miserable --that is to say tyranny, which by fraud and force takes away the property of others, not little by little but wholesale;comprehending in one, things sacred as well as profane, private and public; for which acts of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one of them singly, he would be punished and incur great disgrace --they who do such wrong in particular cases are called robbers of temples, and man-stealers and burglars and swindlers and thieves. But when a man besides taking away the money of the citizens has made slaves of them, then, instead of these names of reproach, he is termed happy and blessed, not only by the citizens but by all who hear of his having achieved the consummation of injustice. For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because they shrink from committing it. And thus, as I have shown, Socrates, injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said at first, justice is the interest of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man's own profit and interest. 

Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman, deluged our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the company would not let him; they insisted that he should remain and defend his position; and I myself added my own humble request that he would not leave us. 

Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man, how suggestive are your remarks! And are you going to run away before you have fairly taught or learned whether they are true or not? Is the attempt to determine the way of man's life so small a matter in your eyes --to determine how life may be passed by each one of us to the greatest advantage? 

And do I differ from you, he said, as to the importance of the enquiry? 

You appear rather, I replied, to have no care or thought about us, Thrasymachus --whether we live better or worse from not knowing what you say you know, is to you a matter of indifference. Prithee, friend, do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party; and any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded. For my own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I do not believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if uncontrolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting that there may be an unjust man who is able to commit injustice either by fraud or force, still this does not convince me of the superior advantage of injustice, and there may be others who are in the same predicament with myself. Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom should convince us that we are mistaken in preferring justice to injustice. 

And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already convinced by what I have just said; what more can I do for you? Would you have me put the proof bodily into your souls? 

Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent; or, if you change, change openly and let there be no deception. For I must remark, Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously said, that although you began by defining the true physician in an exact sense, you did not observe a like exactness when speaking of the shepherd; you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd tends the sheep not with a view to their own good, but like a mere diner or banqueter with a view to the pleasures of the table; or, again, as a trader for sale in the market, and not as a shepherd. Yet surely the art of the shepherd is concerned only with the good of his subjects; he has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of the art is already ensured whenever all the requirements of it are satisfied. And that was what I was saying just now about the ruler. I conceived that the art of the ruler, considered as ruler, whether in a state or in private life, could only regard the good of his flock or subjects; whereas you seem to think that the rulers in states, that is to say, the true rulers, like being in authority. 


Then the pay is not derived by the several artists from their respective arts. But the truth is, that while the art of medicine gives health, and the art of the builder builds a house, another art attends them which is the art of pay. The various arts may be doing their own business and benefiting that over which they preside, but would the artist receive any benefit from his art unless he were paid as well? 

I suppose not. 
But does he therefore confer no benefit when he works for nothing? 
Certainly, he confers a benefit. 
Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we were before saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their subjects who are the weaker and not the stronger --to their good they attend and not to the good of the superior. 

And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest, but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing. 

Socrates - GLAUCON 

What do you mean, Socrates? said Glaucon. The first two modes of payment are intelligible enough, but what the penalty is I do not understand, or how a penalty can be a payment. 

You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment which to the best men is the great inducement to rule? Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace? 

Very true. 
And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being ambitious they do not care about honour. Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help --not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one. So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice is the interest of the stronger. This latter question need not be further discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that the life of the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just, his new statement appears to me to be of a far more serious character. Which of us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon, do you prefer? 

I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous, he answered. 

Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was rehearsing? 

Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me. 



Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons. 
And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them virtue and the other vice? 

I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice? 
What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm injustice to be profitable and justice not. 

What else then would you say? 
The opposite, he replied. 
And would you call justice vice? 
No, I would rather say sublime simplicity. 
Then would you call injustice malignity? 
No; I would rather say discretion. 
And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good? 
Yes, he said; at any rate those of them who are able to be perfectly unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and nations; but perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses. 

Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking. 

I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasymachus, I replied; but still I cannot hear without amazement that you class injustice with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the opposite. 

Certainly I do so class them. 
Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable ground; for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be profitable had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and deformity, an answer might have been given to you on received principles; but now I perceive that you will call injustice honourable and strong, and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities which were attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not hesitate to rank injustice with wisdom and virtue. 

You have guessed most infallibly, he replied. 
Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through with the argument so long as I have reason to think that you, Thrasymachus, are speaking your real mind; for I do believe that you are now in earnest and are not amusing yourself at our expense. 

I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you? --to refute the argument is your business. 

Very true, I said; that is what I have to do: But will you be so good as answer yet one more question? Does the just man try to gain any advantage over the just? 

Far otherwise; if he did would not be the simple, amusing creature which he is. 

And would he try to go beyond just action? 
He would not. 
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the unjust; would that be considered by him as just or unjust? 

He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage; but he would not be able. 

Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the point. My question is only whether the just man, while refusing to have more than another just man, would wish and claim to have more than the unjust? 

Yes, he would. 
And what of the unjust --does he claim to have more than the just man and to do more than is just 

Of course, he said, for he claims to have more than all men. 
And the unjust man will strive and struggle to obtain more than the unjust man or action, in order that he may have more than all? 

We may put the matter thus, I said --the just does not desire more than his like but more than his unlike, whereas the unjust desires more than both his like and his unlike? 

Nothing, he said, can be better than that statement. 
And the unjust is good and wise, and the just is neither? 
Good again, he said. 
And is not the unjust like the wise and good and the just unlike them? 

Of course, he said, he who is of a certain nature, is like those who are of a certain nature; he who is not, not. 

Each of them, I said, is such as his like is? 
Certainly, he replied. 
Very good, Thrasymachus, I said; and now to take the case of the arts: you would admit that one man is a musician and another not a musician? 

And which is wise and which is foolish? 
Clearly the musician is wise, and he who is not a musician is foolish. 

And he is good in as far as he is wise, and bad in as far as he is foolish? 

And you would say the same sort of thing of the physician? 
And do you think, my excellent friend, that a musician when he adjusts the lyre would desire or claim to exceed or go beyond a musician in the tightening and loosening the strings? 

I do not think that he would. 
But he would claim to exceed the non-musician? 
Of course. 
And what would you say of the physician? In prescribing meats and drinks would he wish to go beyond another physician or beyond the practice of medicine? 

He would not. 
But he would wish to go beyond the non-physician? 
And about knowledge and ignorance in general; see whether you think that any man who has knowledge ever would wish to have the choice of saying or doing more than another man who has knowledge. Would he not rather say or do the same as his like in the same case? 

That, I suppose, can hardly be denied. 
And what of the ignorant? would he not desire to have more than either the knowing or the ignorant? 

I dare say. 
And the knowing is wise? 
And the wise is good? 
Then the wise and good will not desire to gain more than his like, but more than his unlike and opposite? 

I suppose so. 
Whereas the bad and ignorant will desire to gain more than both? 
But did we not say, Thrasymachus, that the unjust goes beyond both his like and unlike? Were not these your words? They were. 

They were. 
And you also said that the lust will not go beyond his like but his unlike? 

Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the evil and ignorant? 

That is the inference. 
And each of them is such as his like is? 
That was admitted. 
Then the just has turned out to be wise and good and the unjust evil and ignorant. 

Thrasymachus made all these admissions, not fluently, as I repeat them, but with extreme reluctance; it was a hot summer's day, and the perspiration poured from him in torrents; and then I saw what I had never seen before, Thrasymachus blushing. As we were now agreed that justice was virtue and wisdom, and injustice vice and ignorance, I proceeded to another point: 

Well, I said, Thrasymachus, that matter is now settled; but were we not also saying that injustice had strength; do you remember? 

Yes, I remember, he said, but do not suppose that I approve of what you are saying or have no answer; if however I were to answer, you would be quite certain to accuse me of haranguing; therefore either permit me to have my say out, or if you would rather ask, do so, and I will answer 'Very good,' as they say to story-telling old women, and will nod 'Yes' and 'No.' 

Certainly not, I said, if contrary to your real opinion. 
Yes, he said, I will, to please you, since you will not let me speak. What else would you have? 

Nothing in the world, I said; and if you are so disposed I will ask and you shall answer. 

Then I will repeat the question which I asked before, in order that our examination of the relative nature of justice and injustice may be carried on regularly. A statement was made that injustice is stronger and more powerful than justice, but now justice, having been identified with wisdom and virtue, is easily shown to be stronger than injustice, if injustice is ignorance; this can no longer be questioned by any one. But I want to view the matter, Thrasymachus, in a different way: You would not deny that a state may be unjust and may be unjustly attempting to enslave other states, or may have already enslaved them, and may be holding many of them in subjection? 

True, he replied; and I will add the best and perfectly unjust state will be most likely to do so. 

I know, I said, that such was your position; but what I would further consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the superior state can exist or be exercised without justice. 

If you are right in you view, and justice is wisdom, then only with justice; but if I am right, then without justice. 

I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding assent and dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent. 

That is out of civility to you, he replied. 
You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured one another? 

No indeed, he said, they could not. 
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act together better? 

And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus? 

I agree, he said, because I do not wish to quarrel with you. 
How good of you, I said; but I should like to know also whether injustice, having this tendency to arouse hatred, wherever existing, among slaves or among freemen, will not make them hate one another and set them at variance and render them incapable of common action? 

And even if injustice be found in two only, will they not quarrel and fight, and become enemies to one another and to the just 

They will. 
And suppose injustice abiding in a single person, would your wisdom say that she loses or that she retains her natural power? 

Let us assume that she retains her power. 
Yet is not the power which injustice exercises of such a nature that wherever she takes up her abode, whether in a city, in an army, in a family, or in any other body, that body is, to begin with, rendered incapable of united action by reason of sedition and distraction; and does it not become its own enemy and at variance with all that opposes it, and with the just? Is not this the case? 

Yes, certainly. 
And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person; in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not at unity with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus? 

And O my friend, I said, surely the gods are just? 
Granted that they are. 
But if so, the unjust will be the enemy of the gods, and the just will be their friend? 

Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will not oppose you, lest I should displease the company. 

Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the remainder of my repast. For we have already shown that the just are clearly wiser and better and abler than the unjust, and that the unjust are incapable of common action; nay ing at more, that to speak as we did of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously together, is not strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil, they would have laid hands upon one another; but it is evident that there must have been some remnant of justice in them, which enabled them to combine; if there had not been they would have injured one another as well as their victims; they were but half --villains in their enterprises; for had they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they would have been utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the truth of the matter, and not what you said at first. But whether thejust have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons which to have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life. 

I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a horse has some end? 

I should. 
And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing? 

I do not understand, he said. 
Let me explain: Can you see, except with the eye? 
Certainly not. 
Or hear, except with the ear? 
These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs? 
They may. 
But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel, and in many other ways? 

Of course. 
And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the purpose? 
May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook? 
We may. 
Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding my meaning when I asked the question whether the end of anything would be that which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing? 

I understand your meaning, he said, and assent. 
And that to which an end is appointed has also an excellence? Need I ask again whether the eye has an end? 

It has. 
And has not the eye an excellence? 
And the ear has an end and an excellence also? 
And the same is true of all other things; they have each of them an end and a special excellence? 

That is so. 
Well, and can the eyes fulfil their end if they are wanting in their own proper excellence and have a defect instead? 

How can they, he said, if they are blind and cannot see? 
You mean to say, if they have lost their proper excellence, which is sight; but I have not arrived at that point yet. I would rather ask the question more generally, and only enquire whether the things which fulfil their ends fulfil them by their own proper excellence, and fall of fulfilling them by their own defect? 

Certainly, he replied. 
I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot fulfil their end? 

And the same observation will apply to all other things? 
I agree. 
Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfill? for example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned to any other? 

To no other. 
And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul? 
Assuredly, he said. 
And has not the soul an excellence also? 
And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that excellence? 

She cannot. 
Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and superintendent, and the good soul a good ruler? 

Yes, necessarily. 
And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and injustice the defect of the soul? 

That has been admitted. 
Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill? 

That is what your argument proves. 
And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the reverse of happy? 

Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable? 
So be it. 
But happiness and not misery is profitable. 
Of course. 
Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable than justice.