"Wiser by the day"
Socrates' "beautiful city," the political pattern of justice, gradually emerges from the discussion in the first seven books of the Republic. The last, but most significant, feature of the just city to come to light is the figure of the philosopher-king. The nature and goal of philosophy itself is finally treated by Socrates in the Simile of Light in books VI and VII. But are philosophy and politics compatible? Is the just city a realizable goal or is it an unrealizable image, a Utopian dream?
- Herman Sinaiko, introduction to the lecture.
I do not claim to be wise or even particularly knowledgeable about any one thing; however I do try to learn a little every day and thus become a better human being. What brings this thought to mind is a lecture I attended this afternoon by Herman Sinaiko (Professor, Humanities, the College, the University of Chicago). The stated title of his lecture was "A Line, a Cave, and a Beautiful City in Plato's Republic", but I think a shorter, more direct summary title would be "The Journey". He focused on Books 6 and 7 of The Republic in discussing the "overall way the simile of light can be read". I am not going to attempt to discuss the lecture in detail for I am still digesting his words and I have a four page hand out that he asked us to read afterward along with reading, or rereading (in my case) The Republic. The lecture was a demonstration of Plato's project, to the extent it can be demonstrated in a lecture. How does one demonstrate the "dialectic" of Socrates without engaging in the actual process?
He concluded the lecture with a summation of his goal of providing: 1) an account of "The Good", 2) the structure of the "divided line", and 3) the Parable of the Cave. All of this was, in part, an attempt to start (just start) to answer the questions: What is a human being? What is the truth that exists beyond all statements? How do we understand and deal with the inadequacy of our knowledge? Any misinterpretation of this lecture is due to my own limitations which can only be addressed over time, trying each day to engage in "the journey". Hopefully becoming a little wiser, and realizing a little better the breadth of the project.