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Glaucon's Fate: A New Take on Plato's Politics

A new take on Plato's politics, GLAUCON'S FATE, will be available from Paul Dry Books in about a month.

A new take on Plato's politics? A novel take on a subject that has been under debate for two and a half millennia? This speaks to a good deal of confidence on the part of the author, Jacob Howland, in the possibility that he really has something new to say.

And the newness consists in looking to the frame story. The Republic begins thus (Socrates is speaking):

I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess (Bendis, the Thracian Artemis.); and also because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing. I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants; but that of the Thracians was equally, if not more, beautiful. When we had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that instant Polemarchus the son of Ce…
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So: What is a Straussian?

The philosopher and blogger Brian Leiter recently wrote summarily, "Straussians are incapable of reading Nietzsche."

For some of us in the peanut gallery, this raises the question: what the heck is a Straussian?

The term arose in political philosophy and was in use back in the early 1970s, around the time Leo Strauss co-edited a textbook on the history of political philosophy with Joseph Cropsey.

The term "Straussian" suggests several things. First, it is an approach to the classic texts of political philosophy that presumes that nearly every important philosopher in the canon was hiding something. Thus, texts must be read for their esoteric meaning.

Second, related to this, the esoteric meaning was often irreligious. Political philosophy is full of thinkers who are in fact atheists but who have to hide the fact.

Third, related to this in turn, Straussians suggest that these thinkers were right to hide the fact. Their own premise is that there is no God, but that t…

Rebuttal and Surrebuttal

I will continue here the trend of thought of my recent posts about Fiona Cowie's 1999 book, What's Within. It criticizes both Fodor and Chomsky in some detail and I've already paraphrased/summarized her take on Fodor. 

But in a sense the continuation is a pause. Instead of going further, into the part of the book that discusses Chomsky's linguistics views, I'll look a bit further at the differences between Fodor and Cowie as they have played themselves out SINCE the publication of this book.

On a Splinter, Found in a Stone Box

About five years ago archaeologists studying the remains of a 7th century church in Sinope, Turkey, on the southern coast of the Black Sea, found a small stone box.

Inside the box was a splinter of wood.

This type of splinter, inside such a box, was a venerated feature of many churches through the High Middle Ages where it was regarded as a "piece of the True Cross," the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

The 7th century dating of THIS find puts it a good deal earlier than most analogous splinters, though.

Legend holds that it was Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land discovered the True Cross, and all the splinters that eventually found themselves to churches around Europe (enough to have rebuilt the whole city of Jerusalem, according to cynics) were said to have come from this Cross. Sort of like the use of two fish to feed multitudes?

The historic significance of the find doesn't turn on whether one believes that this sp…

Immanuel Kant and Virtue Ethics

In 2010, Cambridge University Press published KANT'S THEORY OF VIRTUE, by Anne Margaret Baxley, of Washington University, St. Louis. 

Kant of course is generally considered the foremost exponent in the western canon of deontological ethics, the view that good and bad are subordinate to right and wrong, and hat right/wrong are defined by duties, imperatives, things human beings as rational creatures must or cannot do, damning the consequences.

Baxley says, though, that Kantian thinking goes beyond that. Kant has a worked-out view of human character, or virtue, logically separate from his well-known view of duty,

We generally associate "virtue ethics" with Aristotle, just as we associate deontology with Kant and consequentialism with Bentham. If one were going to teach a very abbreviated ethics course, one might focus it on those three, and then if allowed time for a fourth, throw in John Stuart Mill and his differences with Bentham to show that consequentialisms are plural.


The Mexican Magician

So ... the story goes that one day a Mexican magician informed his audience that he was about to disappear, right in front of their eyes, on the count of three.

He began counting, "Uno ...
                                     "Dos ..."

Then POOF! He vanished. Everybody was surprised. Not so much that it was a good magic trick but because

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He disappeared without a Tres.