Seventh Letter Synopsis C

Histories
of Meaning


A Seminar

Earl
Jackson, Jr.


University
of California, Santa Cruz
.

Winter 1999

Plato’s Seventh Letter Synopsis Three

[Earl’s comments in RED].

To: Earl Jackson, Jr.


Plato’s Seventh
Letter
is written „To the Relatives and Friends of Dion. Welfare.“ Dion was a friend of Plato’s [Who
was Dion besides Plato’s friend? What was his relation to Dionysius? What
is Dionysius’s full name? Spell his name right, too please. Also consult
my explanation of why I selected this text for our seminar. It’s on the
page entitled
askesis.htmlн
or embedded in the first page on the left-hand side of the screen of our
new and growing structureн
Astynax.

who asked him if he could come to Syracuse
to advise its leader, Dionysos, in the philosophy of just government. Dionysos
did not actually pay attention to any of

Plato’s advice as to proper methods of governance
and philosophy, but

merely wanted to be associated with a great
man such as Plato. The letter

must have been written after Plato heard of
the death of Dion,
[Since Plato discusses
Dion’s death, this is a safe assumption.]
which
came

by the decree of Dionysos.[But
who killed Dion, and why?]

Before becoming a philosopher, Plato had considered
a career in

government, as some of his relatives were among
the „Thirty Tyrants“ who

ruled Athens at one time. After he saw how they
governed
[What incident in particular
turned Plato off?],
Plato became disinterested,
seeing that their form of government had little to do with

the morals he espoused in his philosophy. We can
infer from this letter

that Plato was a Stoic [Holy
Prolepsis, Batman! We sure can’t do that!!! See Below]
,
for he disapproves
with
[NOT English!]н
the practices of „the Italian Greeks and Syracusans, who ate to repletion
twice every day, and were never without a partner for the night (Seventh
Letter, 2).“
[Please use the Stephanus
numbers when citing Plato]

Evidently, Plato would have approved
of
Marcus
Aurelius’s
reign as a

Stoicist Roman Emperor.

[Remember when I mentioned in seminar on Tuesday
{I went into it in some detail too} that once we adopt a technical use
of uses of a term, we have to be diligent against non-techinical uses of
the term creeping back in and muddying the conceptual waters. I gave two
examples :


н

н

н

Hysteria

The clinical use of the term „hysteria“ – a somatic
condition that symbolizes a
psychical
conflict
.
When we adopted this meaning of the term, it meant
we would not be using it to mean „Lucy Ricardo“ or „giggling.“

Subject
/ subjectivity

These terms require that we keep
them infinitely separate from the everyday use of the term „subjective“
as an antonym for „objective.“

нн As „postmodernists“ we staked
our semantic claims on „hysteria“ and „subjectivity.“ Now as provisional
classicists, we need to exercise the same conceptual-cognitive protection
over these areas of specialized knowledge. I like to catch the leaks
early on. One leak was sprung when, in your response you note Plato’s expression
of distaste for the wine-and-dine excessives of Sicilian-Greek culture.
Registering Plato’s complaint is no problem. But it became one when you
inferred from his restraint that Plato aligned himself among the stoics.Suchн
an inference is neither research nor critical thinking. It’s merely opting
out of critical thinking and opting for a cliché – here a popular
(and anachronistic or ahistorical) characterization of stoics as some kind
of puritan-like individuals with exclusively serious interests. Such an
association belongs to twentieth-century sensibilities, not
archaic Greek sensibilities. But let’s look at this from another angle.
Or a couple more.

нннн Plato died
in 347 BCE. Zeno, generally credited for founding the
first
Stoic tradition
, lived approximately between
334 and 261 BCE. So Plato’s conversion to Stoicism would have been truly
prescient.


ннн Your presumption that Plato’s
disinclination for the heavy drinking/eating habits of the Syracusans indicates
a Stoic tendency also misconstrues both
stoicism
and Platonism
. Besides
self-restraint the Stoics
were known for their
philosophy of language, their contributions to grammar, their
logic,
and their highly idiosyncratic epistemology.


ннн On the other hand, slapping
the stoic label on Plato doesn’t give the Athenians credit for one of their
guiding principles:
sophrosyne
– Look this word up and tell me about it tommorrow, ok? Use the resources
I’ve catalogued on our site.]

As soon as Plato arrived in Syracuse
to advise Dionysos, Dion was exiled
[Check
those facts! Who did Plato initially come to see?]
.Plato
was effectively sequestered by Dionysos. Plato advised Dionysos
[spelling!!!]
to become „just and temperate“ and to pursue
virtue, and to take this philosophy and apply it to his government
[Like
a facial?]
. Plato
says that if philosoph is incorporated into government, it will actually
help rulers consolidate power: „if he were then to found again the cities
of Sicily which had been laid waste, and bind them together by laws and
constitutions, so as
to
be loyal to him and to one another in their resistance to the attacks

of the barbarians, he would, we told him, make his father’s
empire not
merely double what it was but many times
greater (Seventh Letter 6).
[And
guess what happens soon {not in Plato’s lifetime, but in Aristotles‘?]“

This is a decidedly non-Machiavellian
thought
[It couldn’t be Machiavellian, for
reasons similar to why it couldn’t be „stoic“ either.]
,
that Philosophy, which

upholds the virtue of knowledge
and the knowledge of virtue
[This is sophistic
reasoning. And think about the ambiguities of a phrase like „the knowledge
of virtue.“ Remember, „virtue“ is not infrequently deemed to be a kind
of knowledge. And that’s only one thing. I want everyone to practice the
same kind of linguistic precision that we see idealized in Socrates.],
can
support

that which subjugates others . [Why
would something that supports that which subjugates others be „virtue“?
Or the agent participating inн support of the subjugation be „virtuous“?
What did you have in mind here?]

Summary D

Summary B

Summary A

 

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Copyright
1998-1999

Earl
Jackson, Jr.

tomrip5@aol.com