How to approach the Philosophy examination

The Self in its Different Dimensions Spiritual Dimension: ‘the Self as Transcendent Entity’ Judeo-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, Taoism The Inner Self: ‘Who am I?’ Psychological foundations:                                                      Philosophical foundations: The Unconscious (Freud)                                                       ...

Plato’s political use of the ‘noble lie’

What would Plato have made of our ‘post-truth’ era where ‘alternative facts’ are likely to receive equal attention and are sometimes given more credence than analytic arguments, standing to reason? Well, Plato also had his own political agenda when writing The Republic and devising the most perfect society or what purports to be the most just society. The educational programme laid out by the alleged ‘founders’ of this utopian state, does not cater for the producers of material commodities. However, ...

Was Plato a precursor of Freud?

Despite the twenty-four centuries separating the two men, both Plato and Freud shared the same pessimism regarding human nature: man is driven by his desires or what Freud called ‘drives’ or instincts. The latter was a scientist who firmly believed in the power of rational enquiry. As a father who lost one of his sons in the First World War and who had to leave Austria for England in his old age in order to avoid the systematic anti-Semitic repression ...

Plato’s rejection of Athenian politics

In his alleged Seventh Letter, Plato recounts his three visits to Sicily at the court of Dionysius, the tyrannical ruler of Syracuse and his vain efforts to change his political views. However, before embarking on his first sea-journey, Plato casts his mind back to the period of the Thirty Tyrants and notes that: ‘When I considered all this, the more closely I studied the politicians and the laws and customs of the day, and the older I grew, the more difficult ...

Is the Philosopher the best possible ruler? (Part 2 of the Allegory of the Ship)

In the Allegory of the Ship, Plato fails to raise some critical points regarding the aloof attitude adopted by his philosopher: 1) By choosing not to intervene in the various quarrels raging between the different popular factions, he is implicitly condoning any attempt to topple the captain of the ship and endanger the future of the crew itself. The philosopher’s silence underlines his rejection of the inevitable clashes taking place in democratic regimes. In fact, he seems totally detached from public ...

Plato’s Allegory of the Ship and the True Navigator (Part 1)

One of the most famous illustrations of Plato’s defence of philosophy is to be found in the section of The Republic dedicated to the Allegory of the Ship (488a-489c) in which Socrates illustrates the negative attitude of his contemporaries towards the true philosopher. On board the ship are the captain, the crew, the leader of the crew and a character called the ‘true navigator’: 1) The captain is described as ‘larger and stronger than any of the crew, but a bit ...

Plato’s dialectic as the exercise of pure thought

The mathematical sciences studied by the apprentice philosopher in The Republic are only a prelude to the crowning stage of the philosopher’s education, namely, the study of dialectic, leading to the intellectual apprehension of the Form of the Good. Mathematics is, indeed, the indispensable tool if students are to rise above a transient physical world and the partial information they can derive from delusive senses. Through the study of geometry, the mind reaches a conceptual understanding of plane and solid ...

Is your life intense enough?

The ancient conception of wisdom entailed a well-planned winding down of futile daily activities in order to reach a state of contentment through a life of measured soul-management. We are unfortunately a long way from the ideal of the Stoics and Renaissance humanists such as Montaigne. Instead, we cannot imagine our lives without a constant access to our close friends, remote acquaintances, work colleagues and the wider world of politics and entertainment. Nineteenth-century science opened a Pandora’s box of seemingly ...

Introspection and Action Part 2

The death of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1980 coincided with the end of a certain introspective philosophy, mainly preoccupied with the citizen’s historical place and moral obligations in a secular, industrialised Western society. Succeeding generations continued to see philosophy as an intellectual weapon to be used in new struggles such as feminist and gay rights movements. Sartre, himself, was fully aware that his legacy was precarious as new historical ‘situations’ would inevitably generate new attitudes and new schools of thought. Sartrean ...

Corrupting youth in search of the ‘true’ life

In his latest essay, entitled ‘La vraie vie’ (the ‘true’ life), the seventy-nine year old French philosopher Alain Badiou, briefly revisits Socratic philosophy for the benefit of young generations. Socrates was sentenced to death by a democratic jury which considered his teaching as too subversive and therefore a threat to the social, religious and political order of Athens. Plato’s mentor was accused of disrespect for the gods of the city and more significantly, of indoctrinating his students with his systematic ...