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What would Plato make of Boris Johnson?
June 22nd 2019 | the Economist | by Bagehot.

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of the literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy......

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Mr Johnson’s failure to get a first continues to annoy him intensely—and to delight many of his rivals. But in truth it doesn’t matter a jot: the world is full of failures who got firsts, and successes who missed out. The really interesting question is not whether Mr Johnson’s results reveal some great intellectual weakness. It is what light the subject of his studies can throw on his qualifications to be prime minister. The classics corpus is full of meditations on the qualities that make for a good leader. And no classical author thought more profoundly about the subject than Plato, the philosopher who was put at the heart of Oxford’s classics syllabus by Balliol’s greatest master, Benjamin Jowett. What would Plato have made of the classicist who appears destined to be Balliol’s fourth prime minister since 1900?.....In “The Republic”, Plato argued that the most important qualities in a statesman were truthfulness and expertise. A good statesman will “never willingly tolerate an untruth”. (“Is it possible to combine in the same character a love of wisdom and a love of falsehood?” one of Plato’s characters asks. “Quite impossible,” comes the reply.) He will spend his life studying everything that he needs to make him a good captain of the ship of state—“the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects”. .......By contrast, Plato argued, the surest signs of a bad leader are narcissism and self-indulgence. The poor statesman is an eloquent flatterer, who relies on his ability to entertain the masses with speeches and comic turns, but doesn’t bother to develop a coherent view of the world. Plato was particularly vitriolic about the scions of the upper classes who are offered the opportunity to study philosophy while young but don’t apply themselves, because they think they are so talented that they needn’t earn their place at the top table.......“The Republic” is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies. Democracy is the most alluring form of government: “the diversity of its characters, like the different colours in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive.” But it is inherently unstable. Citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of experts; and so committed to liberty that they lose any common purpose......As democracies collapse under the pressure of their contradictions, panicked citizens look for salvation in a demagogue. These are men who love power, but cannot control their own desires for “holidays and dinners and parties and girlfriends and so on”. Plato calls them the “most wretched of men because of the disorder raging within them”. Citizens are so consumed by fear that they think these wretches have magical abilities to solve the country’s problems and restore proper order. Demagogues get their start by “taking over a particularly obedient mob”, before seizing control of the country. But the more power they acquire the worse things become, “for the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

The shadow on the wall
Democracies have proved more durable than Plato imagined. And his cure for the problems of democracy—the rule of philosopher-kings, who are expected to hold their wives and children in common—is eccentric to put it mildly. But he is right that character matters. Politicians can change their advisers or their policies, but character is sticky. He is also right that democracies can suddenly give way to populist authoritarianism...... The best way to prepare for a Johnson premiership is to re-read “The Republic”, hoping Plato is wrong but preparing for the fact that he may be right
Boris_Johnson  character_traits  contradictions  demagoguery  democracies  Greek  humanities  leaders  leadership  liberal_arts  opposing_actions  Oxford  pairs  philosophers  Plato  politicians  Romans  statesmen  truth-telling  United_Kingdom 
10 days ago by jerryking
Simone Weil
"Weil acquired from her family home an obsession with cleanliness; in her later life she would sometimes speak of her "disgustingness" and think that others would see her this way, despite the fact that in her youth she was considered highly attractive.[20] Despite the fact that Weil was generally highly affectionate, she almost always avoided any form of physical contact, even with female friends."

"The punishing work-régime she assumed soon took a heavy toll; in 1943, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and instructed to rest and eat well. However, she refused special treatment because of her long-standing political idealism and her detachment from material things. Instead, she limited her food intake to what she believed residents of German-occupied France ate. She most likely ate even less, as she refused food on most occasions. Her condition quickly deteriorated, and she was moved to a sanatorium in Ashford, Kent."

"Absence is the key image for her metaphysics, cosmology, cosmogony, and theodicy. She believed that God created by an act of self-delimitation—in other words, because God is conceived as a kind of utter fullness, a perfect being, no creature could exist except where God was not. Thus creation occurred only when God withdrew in part. Similar ideas occur in Jewish mysticism."
simone_weil  philosophers 
6 weeks ago by skwak
The 4 Questions that Define You: Aristotle and a Deeper Dive into Self-Awareness
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle dealt extensively with understanding the essences of things — whether people, animals, plants, or stones. He defined 4 different ways to answer the question of what makes something what it is. They are:The Material Cause The Formal Cause The Efficient Cause The Final Cause These 4 causes are extremely valuable as a way to get a better understanding of yourself — who you are, and where you are going. And when you remember who you are, you can get going where you’re going. You can overcome the stagnation, and drive forward.At any moment, you have way more on your mind than you are initially aware of. And all that stuff on your mind has weight to it — it impacts your mood and your energy. It also takes up space. It keeps other thoughts and feelings out of your mind, or relegates them to the background, when perhaps they should be in the foreground — pushing your activity in a positive direction..what makes someone a writer is that they think and write above all else. Activities and thoughts flow into words on the page, into paragraphs, and into essays of wisdom worth sharing.
philosophers  character  personality 
february 2019 by thomas.kochi
Let's Talk About the Ending of Glass
t’s a limp ending, as critics have noted, but it’s chock full of symbolism.In Unbreakable and Split, Shyamalan asserted that those who experience trauma can grow into superior beings. It’s not a particularly original idea: The backstories of his superhero and two supervillains are essentially a dramatization of the famous Nietzsche quote, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In Glass, he plays with yet another Nietzschean idea: The “ubermensch.” Often translated as super man, the ubermensch became the precursor for comic book superheroes. The German philosopher and Shyamalan both assert that this type of super-powered man represents humanity’s future.
Time  filmmakers  movies  philosophers 
january 2019 by thomas.kochi
The Power of Schopenhauer A philosophy for life that prizes beauty and compassion
Here on earth nature manifests as an appalling competition. Creatures survive by hunting and devouring other creatures. Every creature dies, more often than not in agony. There’s no God in Schopenhauer’s view. As the philosopher put it himself: “Original Sin is the crime of existence itself.”Schopenhauer’s ideas offer no consolation in themselves, there is no redemption in his world view, only relief. Instead of placing hope in a God or progress, Schopenhauer believed that we should look in two directions for peace of mind: compassion and art. To understand how he came to this conclusion, it’s worth unpacking his philosophy.Music was the highest form of art for Schopenhauer. Because it’s not “mimetic”, or a copy of anything else as, say, painting is, music depicts the will itself. As such, music is pure expression, a “true universal language” understood everywhere. Listening to music we may appreciate the Will without feeling the pain (desire or boredom) of its workings. The philosopher wrote: Schopenhauer was a formative influence on Friedrich Nietzsche, both were atheists who believed there was no inherent meaning in the universe. But Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer’s asceticism. You can read more about Nietzsche’s approach to finding meaning here:
philosophers  philosophies 
january 2019 by thomas.kochi
Summa Theologiae” by Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae is indisputably one of the great works of theology in the Western tradition. But why speak about the Summa in a series dedicated to great works of philosophy? A medieval maxim which Thomas accepts states, “grace perfects nature, it does not destroy it or set it aside.” Since theology and philosophy treat many of the same topics, e.g., God, human nature, and the moral life, Thomas thinks that good theology presupposes good philosophical analysis and argumentation. The Summa, although primarily a work of theology, is therefore full of philosophy.
january 2019 by thomas.kochi
Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer
The futurist philosopher Yuval Noah Harari thinks Silicon Valley is an engine of dystopian ruin. So why do the digital elite adore him so?
NYTimes  thinkers  philosophers 
november 2018 by thomas.kochi
“Even in his first writings Camus reveals a spiritual attitude that was born of the sharp contradictions within him between the awareness of earthly life and the gripping consciousness of the reality of death.”He rejected Christian, Platonic, and several Enlightenment views of the afterlife, for example, in part because he thought they couldn’t make up for earthly suffering and death and took away from concern for justice in this life. He claimed to have a “pagan nature” that he had discovered via a different Greek strain of thought. He appreciated the beauty of the world, but also its implacable and uncaring tragedy.And yet he regarded all that—and the human complications within it—with no little irony and humor: “I sometimes dream of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the newspapers. After that strong definition, the subject will be, if I dare say so, exhausted.” Thus Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the narrator of the witty, snaky, and self-damning monologue that makes up Albert Camus’s The Fall, the last of his novels to be published during his lifetime. The title of that book and the speaker’s name (John-Baptist) point to its muted, but carefully calibrated, religious themes, as does the original title of The First Man, which was supposed to be Adam. Camus’s brilliant working at the frontier between belief and unbelief—indeed, between ancient Greek and Christian ways—and his effort to live honestly and decently despite the ideological horrors of the twentieth century were central to what made him great in his time and of remarkably fresh insight, even in our own more confused age.
FirstThings  philosophers  authors  spiritual 
november 2018 by thomas.kochi
Knowledge Considered as a Weed Killer
Mary Midgley, 99, Moral Philosopher for the General Reader, Is Dead
John Motyka. NYTimes. October 15, 2018

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 18, 2018, on Page B14 of the New York edition with the headline: Mary Midgley, Accessible, Acerbic Critic Within Moral Philosophy, Dies at 99

. . . . .

"Knowledge Considered as a Weed Killer"
Mary.Midgley  philosophers  obituaries 
october 2018 by asfaltics
Rousseau, Marx and Nietzsche The prophets of illiberal progress
Terrible things have been done in their name.LIBERALISM is a broad church.. ranged from libertarians such as Robert Nozick to interventionists such as John Maynard Keynes..Small-government fundamentalists like Friedrich Hayek have rubbed shoulders with pragmatists such as John Stuart Mill.Liberals believe that things tend to get better. Wealth grows, science deepens understanding, wisdom spreads and society improves. But liberals are not Pollyannas. They saw how the Enlightenment led to the upheaval of the French revolution and the murderous Terror that consumed it. But there are limits. Our last brief seeks to sharpen the definition of liberalism by setting it in opposition to a particular aspect of the thought of three anti-liberals: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a superstar of the French Enlightenment; Karl Marx, a 19th-century German revolutionary communist; and Friedrich Nietzsche, 30 years Marx’s junior and one of philosophy’s great dissidents. Each has a vast and distinct universe of ideas. But all of them dismiss the liberal view of progress.The illiberal view of progress has a terrible record. Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Terror, invoked Rousseau; Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong invoked Marx; and Adolf Hitler invoked Nietzsche.The path from illiberal progress to terror is easy to plot. Debate about how to improve the world loses its purpose—because of Marx’s certitude about progress, Rousseau’s pessimism or Nietzsche’s subjectivity. Power accretes—explicitly to economic classes in the thought of Marx and the übermenschen in Nietzsche, and through the subversive manipulation of the general will in Rousseau. And accreted power tramples over the dignity of the individual—because that is what power does.Liberalism, by contrast, does not believe it has all the answers. That is possibly its greatest strength.
Economist  philosophers  philosophies 
september 2018 by thomas.kochi
RT : I am one of the few who has given a talk about stem cell research on a stage at the Minnesota State F…
philosophers  from twitter_favs
september 2018 by edsonm
QUELLE SURPRISE Sartre, Spinoza ... and Cruising at the Café de Flore
May 69. Hardly a year gone by since the human fireworks, huffle, puffle and fizzle that turned the world’s youthful eyes toward the Seine the previous Spring when it was forbidden to forbid. How could a 21-year-old in sleepy, pointy-headed Ann Arbor, squirming through a course in Byzantine history resist temptation? For a $200 airline ticket and the offer free place to sleep? Maybe there was still a wisp of dialectical chatter in one of those Left Bank cafés where the great icon Jean-Paul Sartre puffed away with his acolytes on their hand rolls, occasionally (it was said) reinforced with a strand or two of hashish.
celebrities  philosophers  restaurants 
july 2018 by thomas.kochi

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