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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Just Finished Reading: Plato – A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annas

At a mere 91 pages this was a very short introduction indeed. Saying that, it also turned out to be a very interesting. I’ve read bits and pieces by Professor Annas before. She writes very well indeed in a style that is both accessible and illuminating. So far in my wider reading I’ve only really dipped into the works of Plato (actually reading more about him than by him) so it was good the come across another slant of his rather large body of work. I had assumed that, despite speaking through the mouths of others in his collected books, he was actually putting across a coherent if evolving philosophy of life. Not so apparently! I had also assumed that Plato’s Forms where central to his work – again not so apparently. Having that viewpoint now in my mind was alone worth reading this book for. Now its for me to decide if I agree with the author – once I’ve read enough Plato to form an opinion on the subject.

I have certainly developed a fondness for the Ancient philosophers of both Greece and Rome over the last year. Not only do many of them seem strangely modern but they also seem to be saying many of the right things that we need to relearn in the modern world. Despite the gap of thousands of years I believe that these ancient scholars can still speak directly to the minds of people today and I think that we would be wise to listen to them.

4 comments:

Evil Twin said...

"Not only do many of them seem strangely modern but they also seem to be saying many of the right things that we need to relearn in the modern world. Despite the gap of thousands of years I believe that these ancient scholars can still speak directly to the minds of people today and I think that we would be wise to listen to them"

I totally agree.
Words cannot express how beautiful and amazingly modern I found the philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus.
Not to mention the poetry based on the latter, written by Lucretio (De Rerum Natura).
I'm not so hot on Plato, but still.
I totally agree.

As I'm here, I recommend you check out the except me and my monkey blog, please.

CyberKitten said...

ET said: Words cannot express how beautiful and amazingly modern I found the philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus.

I've read some Epicurus who seemed pretty spot on. If I remember he's a Stoic right? After reading people like the Roman Stoic Seneca I couldn't help feeling that my teenage years would have had seriously less angst if I'd read him back then!

ET said: Not to mention the poetry based on the latter, written by Lucretio (De Rerum Natura).

I haven't read any poetry from around then. I do intend reading Homer & Virgil at some point though...

ET said: I'm not so hot on Plato, but still.

What little I've read of him seems OK. I've read a few works by Aristotle in some detail - particularly The Ethics & Politics - both of which I was *very* impressed by (despite his views on Democracy!)

Evil Twin said...

Epicurus a stoic?
say it ain't so, man! couldn't be farther from the truth. I can think of at least one major difference.
Stoics believed that some super-intelligence was governing everything (most of them used this argument to justify Rome's imperialistic endevours)
Epicurus could probably be described as an atheist. He believed that even if the gods existed, they held no interest in human affairs. Nature and in fact nothing in this world was designed purposefuly for human use. There are even some treaties he writes in which a rudimentary theory of evolution is explored. He threw spiritualism and anthropocentrisn out of the window.

Lucrezio, a latin poet, wrote his greatest work 'De Rerum Natura' (of Nature), dedicated to Epicurus and his philosophy. It is really good.
Homer and Virgil? meh.
The Oddesey is pretty cool.
But stay away from the Iliad.
Virgil's Enead is pretty much a fusion/homage to the two Homeric poems.

didn't Seneca kill himself?

and Plato was one dirty guy. Mysogenist... racist... fascist.... eugh. Far too spiritual for my taste as well.

CyberKitten said...

ET said: Epicurus a stoic? say it ain't so, man! couldn't be farther from the truth.

My bad! It's been a long week & I'm tired [laughs] You're quite right....

ET said: I can think of at least one major difference.
Stoics believed that some super-intelligence was governing everything.

They were definitely into Fate which some also called God - which ruled everything that happened.

ET said: Homer and Virgil? meh.
The Oddesey is pretty cool.
But stay away from the Iliad.

That bad huh? Isn't that the one about Troy?

ET said: didn't Seneca kill himself?

I think he was ordered to kill himself by Nero.

ET said: and Plato was one dirty guy. Mysogenist... racist... fascist.... eugh. Far too spiritual for my taste as well.

I think most of the great Greek philosophers where racist, misogynist fascists... [laughs]. Though they get reinterpreted by every era. I think Platonic spirituality was co-opted by the Christians but I do believe Plato was a Monotheist which was a bit unusual at the time.