HOMER: The Odyssey [Book I]

In Book I of Homer’s Odyssey, Homer invokes the aid of a Muse to help him recount the story of Odysseus’ return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. The story begins nearly ten years after the war. Odysseus still has not returned home. A nymph named Calypso, has detained him on her island, and she intends to make him her husband, but Jove and the other Olympian Gods decide that the time has come for Odysseus to return home. Continue reading HOMER: The Odyssey [Book I]

TOLSTOY: War and Peace [Book I-VIII]

Russian author Leo Tolstoy published his novel, War and Peace, in 1869. The novel depicts the lives of several Russian nobles during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in the early 1800s. The title, War and Peace, symbolizes the war and peace among nations, among individuals within one society, and among different desires within an individual. Continue reading TOLSTOY: War and Peace [Book I-VIII]

PLATO: The Republic [Book X]

In Book X of Plato’s Republic, Socrates banishes all artists from his ideal State. He argues that the creations of art are farthest removed from truth; and therefore, art turns the mind of the spectator away from truth and toward the realm of becoming. For example, there are several instances of tables in the world, but only one idea of a table. A table-maker can make a table, but he cannot make the idea of a table. Even farther removed from the true idea of a table than the table of a table-maker is the painting of a table. “Tables, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend them: God, the maker of the table, and the painter.” Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Book X]

PLATO: The Republic [Book IX]

In Book IX of Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes the character of a tyrant. All men, Socrates admits, have a lawless and beastly nature. This darker nature displays itself during dreams while the rational part is sleeping. “Then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or drink, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime a man may not be ready to commit.” The difference between tyrants and other men is that tyrants do not reign in the wild beast when they awaken, but rather encourage it. Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Book IX]

PLATO: The Republic [Book VIII]

In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates moves from the discussion of the ideal State of aristocracy to a discussion of the four unjust types of States – timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Because the natures of States resemble the natures of the men that comprise them, an examination of unjust States will illuminate the natures of unjust men. We can then compare the happiness of the just man to the happiness of the unjust man. “And we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or to prefer justice.” Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Book VIII]

PLATO: The Republic [Book VII]

Book VII of Plato’s Republic contains the most famous metaphor of philosophy – the Allegory of the Cave. Socrates requests that his audience imagine a group of prisoners chained since birth to the bottom of a cave. The prisoners can only see the wall in front of them. They cannot turn their heads to either side. Behind the prisoners, puppeteers move statues in front of a fire. The statues cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners speak of these shadows as we speak of our world. They call the shadows – horses, dogs, men, etc. Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Book VII]

PLATO: The Republic [Book VI]

In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, Socrates explains why people reproach philosophers as useless and evil. He draws an analogy between a ship with a mutinous crew and a society with rebellious citizens. The mutinous crew members of a ship violently struggle with one another to become captain, but not one of them possesses knowledge of navigation. The crew considers the captain, who does possess such wisdom, a “star-gazer” because the crew does not realize that the constellations provide an excellent guide to navigate the ocean. Just as the crew’s ignorance of navigation causes them to unjustly mutiny against the captain, so too does the citizens’ ignorance of statesmanship cause them to rebel against true philosophers. Continue reading PLATO: The Republic [Book VI]

The unexamined life is not worth living.


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