Thought Experiments

Today’s reading in Plato was pretty much setup; the real argument begins in Thursday’s reading. Nonetheless, my classes both engaged the text with some enthusiasm, and I finished my teaching day tired but pleased with the results.

The more I teach Plato, the more parallels strike me. The Ring of Gyges is obviously an influence on Tolkien; that’s easy. But this time through, planning the lesson, I came to realize that Socrates’ good man in his thought experiment bears a striking resemblance to Job–he’s a genuinely righteous (the Greek dikaiosyne gets translated as “just” in Republic and “righteous” in Matthew) man who loses all the benefits of righteousness in heaven and in earth. Of course, the genius of Job is that the wronged righteous man speaks, and although I still don’t think that the writer of Job necessarily knew Plato, I do think that the connection is undeniable.

As happened last year, this year’s students are still working out what to do with Plato’s highly specialized society. I reminded them that at least part of what he’s doing is analogical, but nonetheless the question remains valid. And the pattern holds from last year: the students don’t like the idea that one job is in store for a person’s entire life, but when it comes to very important tasks (surgery and protection come up in every class), the students want specialists working in their behalf. Yes, this is a fun book to teach.

I also gave my preliminary “sex in Athens” speech to both sections today. Not surprisingly, a city in which the same man could have a boyfriend, a wife, and a prostitute when he felt the need struck the class as rotten. (It is in fact rotten.) But I have a hunch they’ll read the sex sections of Republic a little more acutely when we get there, so I don’t mind the relative embarrassment that I experience every time I have to give that talk.

Thursday we start talking about educating the guardians, always a fun time. I’ll have to revisit the text before I start planning my attack, but this section always gets personal, and I like that.

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2 Comments

Filed under Plato, teaching

2 responses to “Thought Experiments

  1. Robert

    What will you be attacking?

  2. Nathan P. Gilmour

    Individualism and consumerism, mostly. Plato’s basic assumption is that people are educated by the community, for the good of the community. There’s no sense of pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps in Plato.

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