Thursday, March 14, 2013

Plato's Republic Book 10 and 11

Wait for it... oh sorry, you've been waiting for this for several weeks now.  It's my final entry at least for now, on Plato's Republic; specifically, books ten and eleven.  As before I have a couple caveats to my entry before I begin.  First, my thoughts that fall under the 'Book 10' portion of this entry aren't really a commentary on what that particular section is about, more like my thoughts on Plato and Socrates' concepts of God and my imagined response they might have had to Jesus.  Secondly, if you're reading these notes, I hope you understand that these are just my reactions to listening to Plato's work in audiobook format, NOT some in-depth study or analysis of Plato's works or philosophy.  I like to think I have some good insights into his work, but I'm probably just one of thousands of people (most of which are MUCH smarter and better read than I) that have said their opinions about what Plato meant when he wrote this work.

Book 10.  When listening to this section I wasn't really all that focused on Plato's idea of the "forms" (I'm going to dispense with the use of quotation marks to refer to Plato's idea that there's an ideal representative thing for everything that exists), as much as I was thinking about how Plato would have responded if he had met Paul or Jesus or C.S. Lewis or some other great Christian teacher/apologist.  Plato is expanding some of his concept of forms and all I can think is "the God of the Bible is the God that you're describing!"  If Plato had the chance to sit down with Paul and discuss theology and Paul had taught Plato about the God of the Bible, that I serve, and shared with Plato that which Jesus had taught him, I think Plato would have become a great apologist himself.  Plato already talks about a god that made the universe and made the forms of all things and then he goes astray from this great god and still believes in Zeus and Athena and the like.  If he could have dispensed with all that mythology and just stuck with the idea of one God that made all things including the ideal forms of all things then his theology and his philosophy wouldn't have been that far off the mark.  As his book affirms Plato was totally caught up in the Greek mythology of his day.  His concept of this originator god that created the forms of all things is novel and borderline blasphemous.  Sadly, Plato lived hundreds of years before Christ and it doesn't appear that he had any influence or interaction with any Jews or anyone else that believed or followed the biblical texts as they existed at the time.

Book 11.  This is the final section of the Republic and in some ways the most distressing.  He has mentioned a few times previously about the illegitimacy of poetry and various poets.  He even suggested that art and poetry be completely regulated and censored.  Then, after blasting the poets for making up fairy tales and twisting the truth.  What does Plato do in book 11?  He makes up a fairy tail mythology to support his concept of how the soul is immortal and how it pays to be a wise philosophical person, both for this life and the next.  One other thing I dislike about this last section, Plato makes it clear in his fairy tale that souls are immortal and just pass from this life into the next then come right back (a bit similar to Hindu reincarnation).  However, (unless I heard wrong) in book 10 he said that god creates souls.  So which is it Plato?  Are souls immortal or were they created by god?  It seems that he wouldn't have such a glaring internal inconsistency given that he's basically a genius and one of the greatest fathers of all western philosophy.

Alex whale watching