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Plato and Moral Education

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  • Steve Marquis
    Jan wrote: ________________ The Platonic psychology contains a danger: the reification of the irrational “parts of the soul,” making these parts of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 1999
      Jan wrote:

      The Platonic psychology contains a danger: the reification of the
      irrational �parts of the soul,� making these parts of the soul into so
      many little homunculi inside a person. This sets up the basis for the
      rationalization: �I could not help it, my reason was overpowered by my
      desires [those other things that are not truly me]!� Aristotle
      explicitly recognizes that our desires are our own and that actions
      based on them are voluntary, even if not always deliberate. But the Stoa
      goes one step further: our appetite-based desires and our ego-based
      desires for victory and marks of social preferment are judgments
      constituted in part by our assents to impressions. Our salvation from
      violent feelings of the soul thus lies as close as our ability to refuse
      assent to impressions that do not merit it.

      Jan, I don't find much to disagree with here. I prefer the unified
      psyche of the Stoa to the 3 part division of Plato's psyche myself. If
      what you claim is true, that the Platonic model encourages
      irresponsibility, then that makes an even stronger case for the Stoic
      model, or one similar to it.

      My insistence that we not get wrapped in Platonic / Stoic differences is
      that in doing so we'll miss Needleman's main points. Ego attachment can
      be explained in terms of false judgments as well as the desire to
      satisfy our appetites, IMO. Ego attachment could be explained in
      Buddhist terms, for that matter. It just happens Needleman uses Plato
      as his example.

      The point is that education in the dialectic, metaphysics, and even
      science, should come after a certain moral maturity has been reached.
      Why? Ego attachment. Consider the power of explanation that science
      gives us, along with the ability to physically control and manipulate so
      much of our environment. Both of these abilities can easily be misused
      by the ego. The ego wants security. And that means stability, not
      change. Science explains almost everything, so we think. That's pretty
      stable; a huge temptation for ego attachment. On top of that add all
      these wonderful technological solutions to our physical needs, and
      science becomes an apparent panacea for everything. This leads to
      dogma, low tolerance of other viewpoints (especially spiritual ones),
      impedes the scientific method itself to investigate anomalies, and
      ignores the human need for value. This is not a problem with the
      scientific method, this is an ego attachment issue. And there are many
      ways we can address this issue. A good one, IMO, is an education in,
      and practice of, Stoic apatheia and Virtue, and the value system that
      derives from these principles, early in life.

      With this solid ethical foundation we can address our enviroment,
      cloning, population, abortion, and host of other seemingly irresolvable
      issues in a more cohesive, integrated, and reasonable fashion. Right
      now all we're doing (in society, that is) is lining up on one side or
      the other of a given issue polarized all out of proportion and arguing.
      No dialectic. Total pathe. Apatheia has got to come first. If we
      learn how to reason well before we develop any apatheai we will only
      become very good at rationalizing. This is reason at the service of the
      ego; in other words, a refusal to evaluate the judgments that make up
      our own belief system. Rather than introspection we use our reason in
      defense of our dearly beloved belief system. Part of that defense is to
      tear down the beliefs of others and make them wrong. With this kind of
      attitude it is a detriment, not a benefit, to have a high powered
      intellect. Reasoning has become dangerous.

      This is not only a problem with scientific ideas. I've already
      mentioned religious zealots in another post. Metaphysical and spiritual
      ideas have the potential for even more visciousness since the
      requirement for empirical validation has been removed. So, no one gets
      off the hook. Is this the fault of religion? No more than the other
      was the fault of science. It is the power of attachment to knowledge
      combined with an absence of a cohesive integrated value system. Easy
      knowledge without self restraint, moderation, or justice. It certainly
      is not wisdom.

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