Tagged: Socrates

The Philosophical View

An enthusiastic and diligent student who has been studying Plato with me for several months — we were in the middle of a close analysis of Book III of the Republic several weeks ago, when coronavirus “social distancing” interrupted our conversation — sent me an e-mail yesterday to share his distress over the current situation. You know, students like me don’t know how...

Reasonable Doubts: Part One

Today I begin what will surely become a series of observations on the many dangerous psychological certainties running wild through our modern world, behind our age’s thin, self-congratulatory veils of relativism, nihilism, and skepticism. That is to say, we are an era of unquestioning true believers and romantic dogmatists, particularly with regard to our comforts and pleasures, and yet we continually market ourselves...

Socrates on the View from Our Hollows

Several days ago, I wrote a short piece about Socrates’ description of the Earth to his companions, as he sat in his prison cell awaiting the hemlock. Today, as a spiritual escape from the moral prison formed of modern politics and the mass hysteria of coronavirus, I would like to reflect on one of the key themes of that famous episode in the...

Soaring Below the Surface of the Earth

In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates, in his dying hour, describes his mind’s eye view of the Earth, as a final life lesson for his friends. The most striking feature of his remarkable quasi-mythical account is his speculation that the true surface of the Earth is not the ground we walk on, which we mistakenly call “the Earth,” but rather the upper limits of our...

Meanwhile, back in the cosmos…

Some weeks ago, a student who knows a great deal about my character and interests contacted me with the urgent advice to run outside as quickly as possible, so as not to miss the gorgeous moonrise she was witnessing from a bus across town. Yesterday, the same young woman contacted me with similar urgency, at roughly the same late afternoon hour, to ask,...

Limbo’s Traditional Christmas Greeting

Many years ago, I wrote a Christmas essay for American Thinker. Because I am I, and my preoccupations are as they are, the piece was neither nostalgic nor sentimental in character, but rather a reflection on the ultimate civilizational significance of Christmas. That is to say, I was not primarily concerned with the religious or dogmatic meaning of the holiday, but instead with...

Maxims on Modern Democracy

A citizenry proves itself untrustworthy with power, even essentially unworthy of self-government, to the extent that they are collectively sanguine, let alone enthusiastic, about the kind of people they are invariably asked to vote for. To be successful at the highest levels of democratic politics is to expose oneself as the kind of character who overvalues short-term gain, who is always prepared to...

Limits Imposed and Removed

Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite modern writers, published two distinct but similar poems called “Limits,” dealing with roughly the same philosophical theme, namely the gradual narrowing of our remaining experience as we grow older. I wish to discuss the shorter of the two poems, which, although less well-known, is the one I prefer. I begin with Borges’ work itself, which I...

On Teaching Abnormal Souls

Throughout my teaching life, I have naturally had many opportunities to counsel students who were looking for some guidance on personal matters — typically, given my philosophic character, matters of a “big picture” nature, rather than passing practical concerns. The most interesting and enriching of such opportunities, from my perspective, are usually those in which the student’s problems are more fundamentally spiritual, his...

“Injustice” vs. Responsibility

After being convicted and condemned to death by a jury of hundreds of his fellow Athenians, Socrates, awaiting execution, was offered a chance to escape from prison and live in exile. He rejected the plan, primarily on the grounds that by choosing to live in Athens his whole life, to marry and raise his children there, and to practice his preferred way of...