Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Plato Plateau

Did you know that ancient Greece is a not a single nation, but rather a series of independent city-states? Did you know that Plato's The Republic is actually a repudiation of Greek democracy and the defense of rule by the intellectual elite? Before this morning's extensive lecture, I certainly did not.

Professor Kramnick began by explaining the extent to which the elite Western culture is shaped by the traditions of ancient Greece, which is seen in modern politics, architecture, art, etc. Soon after, he delved into the theology of Plato-the Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, founder of the Academy in Athens, and student of Socrates. 

In The Republic, Plato attempts to define what a just community is, what a just person is, and the relationship between them. By using Socratic dialogue, - an oppositional discussion in which the defense of one point of view is pitted against the defense of another- Plato determines that a just person and a just community share principles that are based on the tripartite mind theory. 

We elaborated more on this during the discussion section. The three characteristics that make up this theory are wisdom, courage, and appetitive desires. Therefore, a just person is one who acknowledges and lives by the trait that best characterizes them. In accordance with these characteristics, three class divisions are established in Plato's Utopian society: guardians, auxiliaries, and workers. In essence, a just community is one where the three classes recognize their place in the elitist hierarchy, perform their natural duties, and maintain a harmonious relationship while doing so. 

A video documentary portraying the events of the 1989 case was presented

An active Ithaca criminal attorney named Nelson Roth was today's guest speaker. He first introduced to us the topic of fingerprint adulteration. Soon after, he discussed the infamous 1989 case of a horrific quadruple homicide that occurred in Ithaca. Initially, it was believed that Micheal and Shirley King were responsible for this crime, as fingerprint evidence 'found' by investigator David Harding showed. However, Mr. Roth discovered that Harding actually fabricated the evidence from another location and claimed to have found it at the crime scene. 

Once the presentation ended, Professor Kramnick held a voluntary discussion session for students who had any questions regarding today's lecture, the readings, or any other concepts relating to freedom and justice. Even though I did not have any questions, I felt compelled to stay so I could hear information that will not only clarify my understanding of the course material, but allow for me to hear Kramnick's perspective on topics he did not discuss in depth during the lectures. 
Some students at Kramnick's voluntary discussion section

The longer I stay at Cornell, the more I feel my knowledge and perspective expand. 

1 comment:

  1. This is Jun from the Experimental Physics program at U. Penn. Great job on introducing the viewers to Plato's Republic! Western society is certainly sculptured by the principles of specialization - every person in society needs to have a role. Also, it should be noted that Plato's Republic is not a singular effort by Plato, but rather a text influenced by his "master", Socrates. That's what I read, anyways, I may be wrong. Good job blogging on Plato's Republic! It was very easy to read and it wasn't thick at all.