Friday, June 28, 2013


After the six Cornellians had dinner, Mr. Chan-Law drove everyone to
the Ithaca mall to watch Monsters University. After the film, he treated
everyone to ice cream. 
Waking up to a Friday morning generates a great feeling, particularly when classes end at 11:45PM as opposed to the usual 2:45PM. Fridays mark the end of a week, the start of the weekend, and signify the passage of time. To realize that the first of my three weeks at Cornell University has passed is not so surprising as the realization that the Preliminary Exam will take place in four days. Professor Kramnick's Introduction to Political Philosophy students have written one essay and received the prompt for the final paper--which will be turned in on the day of the class final-- but the Preliminary Exam will be the first graded piece of work that will weigh heavily on grades. 

This week has passed in a collective series of scheduled days which run repeatedly and monotonously like clockwork. Mornings begin with Professor Kramnick's lectures, merge into discussion sections, and the afternoon is greeted with a relieving lunch break. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, lunch is followed by a guest lecture; whereas on Mondays and Wednesdays the food serves as fuel for a writing session. The lectures are long and are capable of lulling people to sleep, but for those interested in philosophy, Plato, politics, etc. these lectures are captivating instructions. Today was part two of Kramnick's Plato lesson, and focused on the two realms which divide the masses from leaders, the infamous allegory of the cave and the simile of the sun. 

There are two main philosophies Plato is concerned with. Metaphysical philosophy questions the nature of reality and asks what is truth; epistemology questions how we know reality and on what grounds can we justify some thing as fact. According to Plato, the masses are mere spectators who deal with the world of belief and their conceptions are based purely on what they see-- what is visible. They see what appears to be beautiful, but what they perceive will change over time, and so their beliefs are only temporary. Leaders, on the other hand, are readers of knowledge, and because their world is the realm of reality, they know what is beautiful and this will not change over time. 

A visual depiction of the Allegory of the Cave that was distributed by Kevin, my section's teacher assistant. 

Toward the end of The Republic, Plato illustrates his ideas through the image of a cave, where humans are chained at the foot of a cliff so that they may only look straight ahead. They can see shadows of objects cast onto the wall before them, but they never see the fire or actual objects themselves. Thus the prisoners are only seeing appearances of objects, and their entire conception of the world is based solely on cognitive perception. One of the prisoners, however, is released from his bonds and he is then able to see the fire-- a symbol of goodness and the facilitator which makes it possible to see the appearances on the wall. The freed prisoner will at first be blinded and look away. He will then want to return to his world of appearances but will instead be dragged to the surface where the sunlight will blind him with truth. The light, which represents "goodness" will momentarily blind the man as he realizes his world of appearances was not reality and the truth will hurt at first until he acclimatizes. When he acclimatizes, he will gain vast amounts of knowledge, and will eventually return to the cave to enlighten his brothers, as it is his duty to the community as a philosopher. 

Tomorrow, many of the students will be embarking on an expedition to the local Farmer's Market, which will exhibit a rich array of fruits as well as souvenir trinkets, according to Professor Kramnick. 

No comments:

Post a Comment