Tag: Plato

The Best of the Great Courses

 

I listened to my first Teaching Company courses, now known as The Great Courses, over 20 years ago. A dear friend suggested that I listen to The Great Ideas of Philosophy by Prof. Daniel N. Robinson. It was magnificent, and I soon had finished ALL of Prof. Robinson’s courses: The Great Ideas of Psychology, Consciousness and Its Implications, Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World, and American Ideals: Founding a “Republic of Virtues.” Every course was incredibly illuminating.

In college, I could count the number of Great professors on one hand: my Trig/Statistics/Calculus professor, an American History professor, and the great David Bell, an English professor. Daniel N. Robinson had all the qualities of a great teacher, primarily the ability to present a survey class, like The Great Ideas of Philosophy, which included the Western philosophers from the pre-Socratics into the 20th century, as if he were a full believer of the philosopher on whom he was lecturing.

I have since listened to (and occasionally viewed, but I much prefer listening while driving or walking) dozens more. Here is a list of some of the other professors I find to be great, “great” meaning I will listen to their courses again and again with unfailing pleasure.

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We live in an age of simple sentences. Some may say we have moved into an age of simple words, or even simple letters and numbers where smartphone texting rules all. Language embodies consciousness, and simple sentences embody simple states of consciousness. The ancient Greeks, and philosophers for the next 2,500 years after, expressed complex […]

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Socrates is a funny guy. Yes, he is serious, but he is never solemn. You can be funny and serious at the same time. This dialogue, the Euthydemus, is a fine example. First a little background: Socrates believes that Athenians are being poorly served by the Sophists, a group of self-proclaimed teachers of rhetoric (the […]

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Most people know the Golden Rule from Jesus/Yeshua: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). Another remark from him is closely associated with the Golden Rule: “The second [greatest commandment] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ […]

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The Refiner’s Fire: The Place of Hell in Judaism’s Sister Religion

 

The same man who wrote this blissfully mournful setting of “Hear my prayer, O Lord” also wrote an annoying little ditty which begins, “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain, / Since I am myself my own fever and pain.” Despite the musical love present in the former composition and lacking in the latter, the words of the latter are expressive enough: love, whether sacred or profane, is a fever whose cause isn’t incidental, its cause is you – who you are and what you love.

That might be a strange way to begin any theological musing, no matter how speculative. But bear with me. Judaism and Christianity are sister religions, springing from the same source. To put it in the driest of secular terms, Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish teacher. Not all Jews believe in an afterlife, but among those who do, this description of its punishments that @susanquinn shared with me seems fairly standard. This essay of sweeping scope by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan also contains several illuminating passages. Both writings describe Gehenom, hell, as a cleansing, either of the “dirt” of our sins (like socks getting “punished” in a washing machine) or of the “static and jamming” that reduces our awareness of our sins’ rightful shame. In neither description are sinners “sent to a different place” from the righteous. Rather, all souls go to the same “place”, and what makes it heavenly or hellish is the state of each soul experiencing it – how “dirty” it is, how much it still has to be ashamed of. As Peter Kreeft, a once-Calvinist Catholic theologian, put it, “In reality, the damned are in the same place as the saved—in reality! But they hate it; it is their Hell. The saved love it, and it is their Heaven.” Still, descriptions of hell as cleansing – as purification which educates the soul for God’s presence – ought to remind Christians more of Catholics’ conception of purgatory than the Christian descriptions of hell most of us are familiar with.

Hell is, after all, described in the New Testament as the place where “their worms do not die, and the fire is never quenched.” “Repent or perish,” we are admonished. And this perishing isn’t just physical death or blissful oblivion – no – but agonizing wormy flames of flaming judgment – forever! Because “the fire is never quenched”, those worms remain stubbornly alive. That same passage continues, “For everyone will be salted with fire.” So the wicked – scratch that, make that everyone – will be salted with fire. Fire is meant to season all of us, through which fire some of us, presumably, are in fact redeemed. This fire, moreover, is the fire of love:

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After soliciting suggested readings in philosophy from Ricochet members, I constructed a reading list. I’m happy to announce I’ve completed the first book in the list, Roger Scruton’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy. My (sparse and hasty) review can be found on Goodreads. Plato is next up, but I’m concluding more and more that […]

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I’m sure you all know of the worldwide–world-historical, as our Marxist friends would say–popularity or importance of Miss Taylor Swift. May I draw your attention to the title of her recent album of such popular music? 1989. Say it with me, if not for my sake, then for Miss Berlinski’s: 1989 is really about what’sherface! […]

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Tired of talking about Trump all the time?  Join the conversation on reincarnation!  This is the third in an ongoing multi-author series. With Plato, it’s complicated!  Plato never tells us directly what he believes, and it takes some work to figure out what he thinks based on what the characters in his dialogues (especially Socrates) […]

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Mr. Goldberg is one of the most pleasant people American conservatism can now boast. He seems very humane & loves dogs. One reads his comments on American politics with a sense of ease–moral ease–this is a man who distinguishes principle from expedience & who desires to be intellectually honest, like Max Weber told educated people […]

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I expect most people on Ricochet have lives to live, so that the experience of folks who live out fantasies might be of some exotic interest, in the way visiting Europe has been interesting to Americans, every now & then, but not too soon after escaping the dead hand of the past… I expect, further, […]

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Only four things are certain since social progress began: Dogs will eat to excess; pigs will enjoy being unclean; people will play with fire; & GOP politicians will do the Philistine song & dance for the national audience, making sure no one suspects that their presidential-looking bodies harbor souls moved by the greatest enterprises known to mankind. It’s a […]

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When I was young, so many years ago, there was a city built upon a rock (A mountain as reported by Plato, inflation to be expected by a jock). Around the rock concentric moats were carved, and in these moats our mighty ships were wharved. I say mighty, and mighty ships they were for plowing […]

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Philosopher: Loving Families Perpetuate Injustice

 

shutterstock_91954007Down in Australia, social justice thinking exists on a far more advanced plane than up here in the benighted, backwoods, bitter-clinging USA. Just to take one example, here are a couple of Aussie philosophers on Australian radio, bemoaning the fact that children raised in loving families receive unfair advantages in life – advantages that perpetuate social and economic inequality. Says one of the philosophers:

“The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.”

He continues:

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Plato’s Republic is occasionally–ok, constantly–mentioned as a book promoting communism.  Don’t believe the hype. For a start, the account of the declining democracy in Book 8 of the Republic is a goldmine if you’re interested in criticism of leftist redistributionist politics; see here for more on that.  (By the way, one of the laws Socrates recommends in Book 8 would have prevented the subprime loans […]

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