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The Clouds by Aristophanes

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by vikingligrveldi, Jan 30, 2007.

  1. vikingligrveldi

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    I will first point out that I really dislike Socrates and Plato. But especially Socrates. Whenever I read about Socrates or read his naive assumptions about reality, I just picture some worthless bum who found a few interesting statements like "Anyone who thinks they are wise must not be, I think I am not wise, so I must be!", and he used to brainwash and exploit young males of Athens to pay his way. Socrates was said to be rational as was Plato and yet both seemed to believe that justice was some natural inclination of humanity, and that the greatest government would be a philosopher king or oligarchy.

    They believed this because they thought themselves to be better than the "common" people, who couldn't possibly be "good" because they hadn't been educated. This is why they both loathed the idea of a democracy.

    I enjoy Aristophanes Clouds much more than The Apology or Crito. I enjoy the scatological humor, references to hypocrisy and the grand finale, Socrates' thinkery being set ablaze as a master statement about the need for honor in society.
     
  2. Omnis_Sathanas

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    Actually, Socrates himself never claims to be wise.
     
  3. Seditious

    Seditious GodSlayer

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    and therein lay his wisdom. Socratic irony they call it eh.
     
  4. judas69

    judas69 god is in the radio

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    I actually agree with vikingligrveldi on this, and I've never found anything I've read of Socrates / Plato (hard to tell the difference after awhile) all that persuading.
     
  5. Έρεβος

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    Um ... yeah, because democracy has done us a hell-ov-a-lot of good. Um. Yeah.

    Socrates misled no youth, but simply taught his philosophy in a desire to educate them. And the greatest government would be on the lines of a philosopher king or oligarchy.

    Oh, and they were "better" than the "common" people. Geniuses are better than idiots, no?
     
  6. Omnis_Sathanas

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    Why does something tell me that this thread is going to degrade into a place for those who haven't spent much time studying Plato's works to dismiss them as irrelevant simply because they don't understand them...

    Keep in mind that Plato is one of the most influential authors in all of western civilization. Even if you disagree with him, the issues he addresses are crucial.
     
  7. judas69

    judas69 god is in the radio

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    Yes, great argument. You either haven't fully studied his works or never understood them because to have an opinion contrary most, or at least yourself, must be a sign of ignorance.

    Additionally, words actually mean something here and are pretty important when trying to grasp the essence of ones post, even here in a metal forum. Notice you're using the word "irrelevant" to describe my opinion of Plato's writings, when I had only used the word "persuading".
     
  8. speed

    speed Member

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    This is a wonderful topic! Although it is started with a bit of a diatribe about two titans of Western thought.

    Indeed, Aristophanes lampoons the great master. I know there's quite a bit of confusion academically over this, as Socrates never accepted money for instruction--although the sophists of the time famously did. But I think the real lesson is still one that is relevant today--especially for philosophy students. Essentially, should one send ones child--at great expense--to the university and learn about useless non-practical things like clouds or categorical imperatives from impoverished old quacks of professors who eek out a living teaching such things that have no real use in society?

    It really mocks, and satirizes the whole idea of the classical model of philosophical study--as well as the infamous sophists, so noted for their forked tongues, and their contemporary lawyer-like style of rhetoric. And remember, by Augustine and the later Roman empire, there were hordes of philosophical schools that one could say Aristophanes foresaw. There's some great lines in Lucian and Julian about the throngs of dissolute cynics and other philosophical "students" who didnt do any learning nor had any philosophical intentions per se, but were groups of professional beggars led by thieves and crooks of "teachers".




    The Clouds is one of my favorite plays, and I even wrote a play based on the basic structure of this one.
     
  9. vikingligrveldi

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    Well, I said that Socrates said that (obviously paraphrased) for a few reasons. First of all that Socrates (according to the apology by Plato) wandered around deciding that the politicians, craftsmen and poets were not truly wise, but only pretending to be wise. He stated that they knew a few things, but weren't truly wise because they believed themselves to be wiser than they actually were.

    Now, if we examine why Socrates went on the quest to test and judge the wisdom of prominent social figures, we will see it was because an oracle at Delphi stated that he was the wisest man in Athens. In my mind his testing his supremacy alone is a statement that on some level he believes it. Yet a greater indicator of Socrates' hypocrisy was that he believed himself capable of actually judging whether or not they are wise. He believed himself so capable of discerning truth that he could actually examine the hidden thoughts of humans and tell whether or not they were genuinely wise. And what is the only other way Socrates could have determined wisdom? Through speech, and he himself claimed to deplore clever rhetoric.

    If Socrates had stated, there is no wisdom, I would have sympathized with him. But he believed that there was wisdom, and since he himself could identify wisdom he must have known what it is, no? And if Socrates truly believes his own theory, he must believe that all of his logic and rationale, his wisdom must be fake as well because they all rest on the assumption that he knows what he is talking about in the first place.

    As for confusion over Socrates taking money, practicing natural sciences, teaching rhetoric, corrupting the youth; in short being a Sophist, as described in The Apology, didn't Socrates have to eat? Is he such a god (as historic figures favored in western society too often become) that he didn't need to eat? I believe that he hung around with wealthy young men for two reasons, one because they could afford to cater to him and give him food, clothing and what have you, and second because young men were easy to control. It is easier to get a 13 year old to rally around your cause than a grown man. Socrates knew that hanging around with a bunch of young boys would inspire in his "students" a loyalty which couldn't be swayed.

    As for a question over poet kings and democracy, I will say that this is their most naive view point. It's really simple to see why monarchies are a bad idea. You could have one philosopher king who was wonderful but that doesn't ensure in the slightest that his lineage (especially since many royal dynasties were totally incestuous) will prosper. Democracy has its downfalls sure, especially modern democracy, but modern democracy itself grew out of the stagnation of feudalism, oligarchy and monarchy.
     
  10. MetalBooger

    MetalBooger Member

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    Sorry, where did you get your Philosophy degree again?
     
  11. angelofdeath9308

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    I have to agree with the first guy. I had to do a paper on Socrates and now I don't have as high of an opinion of him as I used to. He was basically a showboat, he did harm others contrary to what he taught, and was a delusional nut. I understand that Socrates and Plato were influential to Western philosophy, I guess I just don't see eye to eye with their ideas. Plato's noble lie is where he lost me.
     
  12. derek

    derek Grey Eminence

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    I remind some of you that Socrates leaves no extant works. He remains a puppet of Plato.
     
  13. Έρεβος

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    Socrates.-- If all goes well, the time will come when one will take up the memorabilia of Socrates rather than the Bible as a guide to morals and reason... The pathways of the most various philosophical modes of life lead back to him... Socrates excels the founder of Christianity in being able to be serious cheerfully and in possessing that wisdom full of roguishness that constitutes the finest state of the human soul. And he also possessed the finer intellect.

    -Nietzsche


    Socrates was no idiot. His ideas on morality and ethics were the greatest of any period, not leading to any dogmatic absolutes or laws; but rather asking questions, instead of giving answers. If anything Aristophanes was a fool, thought a funny fool. Though it would be more accurate to say he was simply an entertainer, a comedian, a jester; not someone bent on speaking reality or the truth. His comedy is surely genius in its satire, but not truthful in its portrayels.

    As for the first comment upon him stating himself to be oh-so-wise; have you ever read the Apology? Anyone making a half-assed attempt at reading the Apology can quite easily see that he in no way considers himself to be wise, but quite the opposite. He questions instead of dictates, as the "wise" would dictate. He simply makes the observation that foolish individuals believe themselves to be wise, while the individuals that in a way are "truly" wise to any degree know they are not wise.
     
  14. speed

    speed Member

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    I'd like to first reiterate Derek's comments, and recommend Socrates by Luis Navia. This book covers all the extent works regarding or mentioning Socrates, especially focusing on the Socrates of Plato, and the Socrates of Xenophon and other sources. Mr Navia is an expert on Ancient Greek philosophy, especially the Cynics and Stoics. In essence, his book makes the very strong case that the Socrates of Plato, is only half true. As the true Socrates in philosophical ideas and way of life, was the first Cynic, and father of the Stoics. Mr. Navia using these sources, shows that it was Antisthenes who was the true successor of Socrates, and contemporaries knew Plato used the great man to voice his own ideas, not Socrates'. In addition, its wonderfully written. I highly recommend it. And while Im at it, the song How Fortunate the Man with None on Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth album, is a excellent song written about the great satyr-like man.


    I dont understand all the negative comments on Socrates. I think it may have something to do with Nietszche's attacks. But truly, I can think of no purer, better example of a man than Socrates. Even if you think him a fool, he was a man totally dedicated to learning and knowledge. He lived what he taught, he asked for no money, he wasnt arrogant enough to systematize and write books on his subjects, and his death...well, his death is truly a great one. Something that puts Christ to shame. A death worthy of a truly noble man. He died willingly, with his mind and humor still intact, mocking and pointing out the horrors of government power in the process without resorting to invoking the gods for forsaking him, or directly blaming the goverment or the people. And he willingly drank the cup.

    Socrates was and should be an example for everyone. The quest for knowledge, truth, justice, and true individuality, and encouraging others to do the same. He was a truly great man; an Olympian. And there are so few who have graced the world.
     
  15. Omnis_Sathanas

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    I think that because Xenophon basically echoes these sorts of statements everywhere in his portrayal of Socrates, this may contribute to people seeing him as arrogant or pompous. On that note, most of the posters in this topic so far haven't been clear whether they're talking about Plato's Socrates or Xenophon's (which is of little philosophical value).

    It seems that we've made little progress since the ancients in terms of ethics; Aristotle, Kant, and Mill remain the only philosophers who have written serious, lengthy works on the subject. Even after reading all three of those, I'd say that Aristotle's retains the most general usefulness. Based on this alone, I don't see how someone can attempt to be cynical about the kinds of ethical matters that were addressed by the Classical Athenian philosophers--humanity has yet to do better than them.


    I also noticed that after reading through this thread again, objections to the effect of "I dislike..." or "I wasn't convinced..." have been raised. Philosophy is supposed to get you to think, not make new friends or sell you a product.
     
  16. speed

    speed Member

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    Derek is truly the expert here. ALthough I am a great lover and dilettante in ancient history. Once must remember that the sources for this era are actually halfway decent comparatively, but nothing is by any means objective or totally factual. Thats why I mentioned Navia's book as he makes a survey or literature review of all remaining ancient sources that mention Socrates, and using them, creates what I think is a fairly accurate picture of what Socrates was like or actually believed. This is all one can do. Ancient authors and historians were quite like the bloggers of today: they didnt seperate their own aims and ideas from objective history per se. They also loved to embellish.


    But I suppose it doesnt matter does it? A certain myth or legend of Socrates was created and continues on today. The myth of a questioning philosopher who was eventually found a threat and was put to death by his government.
     
  17. vikingligrveldi

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    I pretty much just based my opinions on Plato's dialogs, as I stated when I referred to Crito and The Apology being the sole basis of my opinion. Everything I have read by Xenophon were Socratic dialogs concerning the state of Sparta at the time, so I don't really see how Xenophon would have casted any light on the character of Socrates. But if there is some dialog written by Xenophon that I should know about I would love to hear it.

    I never said that Socrates was stupid, I just said that he was a hypocrite and a pretentious flake. I believe that the entire western mind state is so tarnished by false ideals of reason and morality that the whole of history and all its manifestations of mythic heroes and icons must be reinterpreted and most likely wiped clean from the collective mindstate if we are ever going to achieve any real form of rationality. We are still viewing history and philosophy through lenses of the Judeo-Christian ethos. And it invades all aspects of education. Look at George Washington for example, do we (Americans) really have a truthful view of his life and actions? Or is he made into a mythic figure by popular culture, one that people really don't question. Already Einstein is mythic. If you ask anyone "is Einstein a genius?" they will say "yes, of course". If you ask them "why is he a genius?" many will say, "well he created the theory of relativity" and when you ask "what is the theory of relativity and why is it of any importance?" that is when people start to draw a blank (excluding people who actually know the history of the subject) It is an indicator of herd mentality, because I have asked this and people just respond "I don't know why it makes him a genius, but everyone knows that he was a genius". I am not saying Albert Einstein wasn't a genius, or that Washington wasn't a brave man and wise war-time leader, I am just saying that people base their assumptions of historic figures on the assumptions of others who they consider more intelligent, rather than forming their own conclusions. In short we are playing a historical game of telephone that changes the meaning of the character with each perceptual window of reality that the "educated" communicator communicates, and paradoxically, we are subscribing to lies based around history because they are the popular idea of the character in question at the same time.

    I guess I enjoy absurdism and thereby enjoy Aristophanes more. I realize Aristophanes was a comedian, social commentator, more or less the ancient equivalent of a sitcom writer, but hey, they were good sitcoms. Besides I feel that we can learn a lot more about the "western mindstate" by watching westerners reaction to scatological jokes and titillating images than by worshiping the rational philosophers whose work helped shape the dry puritanical insanity that still pervades North America and to a lesser degree parts of Europe (yes even though there are Athiests, Agnostics and Non-practicing Christians the dogmatic perceptions of good and evil still linger)

    Also I would like to say that I formed most of my views concerning Socrates from taking two classes, a political philosophy class and history class which extensively dealt with all aspects of Socrates. I can see people's redeeming qualities of Socrates, like his supposed piousness. If you consider piousness a positive trait.
     

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