Some forgotten sayings of Socrates

The second year of this pandemic is coming to an end and if you are reading this, you are still alive having avoided death by the pandemic, death by the police and if you are a Kenyan death by a myriad of things from flash floods to hunger depending on where you live or how well you pray to the different gods. But before we get to the business of this post, I take this great opportunity to wish you all a happy and cheerful holiday season. Stay alive!

Leisure is the most valuable of possessions

There is only one good, knowledge; and one only evil, ignorance.

Riches and high birth have nothing estimable in them, on the contrary, they are wholly evil.

On why he was learning to play the lyre, he said, it was not absurd to learn anything that one did not know.

Those who bought things out of season at an extravagant price did not expect to live till the proper season for them.

What was the virtue of a young man? ‘To avoid excess in everything.’

Should one marry or not? Whichever you do, you will repent it, was his advice.

Young man, keep constantly looking at the mirror, for if you are handsome, you might worthy of the beauty, and if ugly, you might conceal the unsightly appearance by their accomplishments.

good without god

I will, as with Socrates in Euthyphro, ask what is good.

The author of can you be good without god wants us to believe that without following his holy book we are incapable of being good. And good, he tells us is what the Koran says is good. He tells us reason or ends are not required, blind obedience is what counts.

He writes,

What is needed in a system of morality is not the end goal, but actually clear directives on which actions are right and which are wrong, covering all conceivable contexts. This is what the Qur’an in particular, claims to achieve.

Had this been the case with the Koran or any holy religious book, interpretation or exegesis would be unnecessary. If the bible directs you to kill your neighbour for working on Sabbath, there is no debate. If the Koran says kill the infidel, it is absolute.

I, for the life of me, do not know how one can arrive at a conclusion that

Humanism is therefore no more than a formalised system of convincing yourself that what you are doing is for the betterment and wellbeing of others.

Maybe this fellow understands humanism to mean something different from what I know it to mean or represent. Put simply we are capable of solving our problems and no god above will do anything to improve our lot.

But he lies when he writes

People try to claim that it is religion which is utilised as a pious front for the doing of evil, and that more people do evil in the name of God than for any other reason. This may be the case but there is a difference here – people do evil in the name of God, in spite of the clear teachings of various religions on which actions are right and which are wrong. Humanism on the other hand has no teachings which could act as a buffer against the evil done in its name.

For example, the directive in the bible to not suffer a witch to live was used as a justification for the witch burnings and similar commands appear in the Koran as justification for jihad, which is English for killing for god or is it Allah! And humanism has many teachings that one could look to if one were interested. And these go thousands of years before some pedo dreamed the Koran into existence.

When our author writes

It is also worth asking the question that “what makes a good, moral person?”

it is evident, at least in my view, that they are asking the wrong question. The question that ought first to be settled is what is good, what is moral. The question Socrates wants dispensed with in the Euthyphro. And I don’t think this author has addressed this small matter of definition.

What is instinct? Is there a difference between when a person acts instinctively and when they just act? I am even confused here.

It may be true, I don’t know, that

Humanism gives no directives and no instruction on what action is right in which context and which action is wrong in which context, it totally falls short of defining morality.

but I will say without fear of contradiction that neither does the Koran nor any religion for that matter deal with all available scenarios or even any scenario. All we have from the hot heads who make religious proclamations is don’t do this or that and why because god, speaking through me commands it. If any precept is empty in directing human conduct, religion must be the most empty.

When our author writes

Humanists can also look to the human conscience, but in doing so, they are admitting that morality is a universal and absolute concept.

I am convinced he failed his philosophy classes. The conclusion that morality is universal and absolute is not arrived at by admitting human conscience as a guide. And while still on it, if human conscience is the guide, the it makes moot any need for gods and proves the case of the humanist.

I am yet to read a religious book that has as a context a starving mother forced to steal to fend for her starving children. If there is, I am open to correction.

There is a lot of material on the internet dealing with this question. Anyone with an internet connection has access to so many, it is depressing that most people with such access write such silly things about atheism.

A man can dream

Socrates.— If all goes well, the time will come when one will take up the memorabilia of Socrates rather than the Bible as a guide to morals and reason… The pathways of the most various philosophical modes of life lead back to him… Socrates excels the founder of Christianity in being able to be serious cheerfully and in possessing that wisdom full of roguishness that constitutes the finest state of the human soul. And he also possessed the finer intellect.

Nietzsche in The Wanderer and his shadow

The birth of tragedy

Out of the Spirit of Music

It is important to note that he wrote this book at the time when his friendship with Wagner was still at its highest. It is a tribute to the power of music in our daily lives and the role art, and by extension music, plays in our lives especially with regard to belief. He hopes that through this analysis we will be able to finally be able to connect again to the Greek high art that was disrupted by the RCC or generally through the development of christianity. I think the book is a good read.

Nietzsche however doesn’t think highly of the book and in the version I read, it starts with self-criticism he wrote a few years after publishing the book  from which this is extracted,

Let me say again: today for me it is an impossible book — I call it something poorly written, ponderous, embarrassing, with fantastic and confused imagery, sentimental, here and there so saccharine it is effeminate, uneven in tempo, without any impulse for logical clarity, extremely self-confident and thus dispensing with evidence, even distrustful of the relevance of evidence, like a book for the initiated, like “Music” for those baptized with music, those who are bound together from the start in secret and esoteric aesthetic experiences as a secret sign recognized among blood relations in artibus [in the arts] — an arrogant and rhapsodic book, which right from the start hermetically sealed itself off from the
profanum vulgus [profane rabble] of the “educated,” even more than from the “people,” but a book which, as its effect proved and continues to prove, must also understand this issue well enough to search out its fellow rhapsodists and to tempt them to new secret pathways and dancing grounds.

I think one is beholden to read the book to come to their own conclusions about the book regardless of what he or his contemporaries thought of and how they received the book.

Dear friends, before we look at what Nietzsche has to say in this book,I would like to start with a digression to introduce you to a little bit of Greek architecture and what we living today thank them for. This post is not about architecture, it is about music. The Greek civilization didn’t last for so long  as compared to lets say the Roman Empire[ high Hellenistic culture was around for about 400 years compared to the Roman which dominated the world for almost 800 years].

The wikipedia entry on Greek Architecture has this to say

Ancient Greek architecture is best known from its temples, many of which are found throughout the region, mostly as ruins but many substantially intact. The second important type of building that survives all over the Hellenic world is the open-air theatre, with the earliest dating from around 350 BC. Other architectural forms that are still in evidence are the processional gateway, the public square surrounded by storied colonnade, the town council building, the public monument, the monumental tomb and the stadium.

The only reason I introduced Greek architecture is because in our current book our philosopher friend deals with Greek art. I think it is important that while we are looking at music and tragedy we also have a brief idea of other aspects of art among the Greeks and architecture falls rightly in place. The Greeks were so much ahead of their time. They had conceived of public squares where they had  public discourses, stadiums where they had games and plays and they developed the classical orders in architecture that are still employed today in many buildings around the world and which also influenced Roman Architecture. When in Greece please find time and visit the Parthenon.

In art [music] and drama, the Greek gave us tragedy, and it is from their art as Nietzsche ably demonstrates in the book,  which has a direct relationship to myth and by extension the belief in the metaphysical. In the Greek theatre, the spectator is part of the chorus and in this way their experience of music and drama was so much different from ours. In this book again you discover Nietzsche the music genius/ critique. He brings music criticism to a level all lovers of music can understand and combines it with philosophy which takes it to a deeper level of understanding.

In this book he demonstrates that the death of tragedy in music is also the death of myth. There are two experiences in music, that is the Apollonian drama[devoid of tragedy] and the Dionysian drama[full of tragedy].

He then introduces us to one of the greatest[at least according to yours truly] philosopher of all time, Socrates. It is in the hands or should I say through the actions of Socrates that the Dionysian art died. We learn from Plato through Nietzsche that he[Socrates] did not attend theatre during the performance of Greek tragedy and we must thank him for the development of science. It is through his actions that science has developed. He sounded the death-bed of myth[tragedy] and proposed that nature could be understood through logic.

He says of Socrates, that when he consulted the Delphic Oracles [you can find this in Apology] they[the Oracles] agreed that Socrates was the wisest man alive and second was Euripides. I think I agree with the Oracles’ assessment.

He poses the question whether the theoretical man can prevent the rebirth of tragedy and by extent, the belief in the metaphysical. In his words,

At this point we are concerned with the question whether the power whose opposition broke tragedy has sufficient force  for all time to hinder the artistic reawakening of tragedy and the tragic world view. If the old tragedy was derailed by the dialectical drive for knowledge and for the optimism of science, we might have to infer from this fact an eternal struggle between the theoretical and the tragic world view, and only after the spirit of science is taken right to its limits and its claim to universal validity destroyed by the proof of those limits would it be possible to hope for a re-birth of tragedy. For a symbol of such a cultural form, we would have to set up Socrates the player of music, in the sense talked about earlier.

And here we have Socrates as the first true scientist and rationalist.

By this confrontation I understand with respect to the spirit of science that belief, which first came to light in the person of Socrates, that nature can be rationally understood and that knowledge has a universal healing power.

As I have said of the other books, there is a great deal in this book making it such an interesting read for anyone with an interest in understanding the Greek culture as it has been revealed to us through the works of Homer, Euripides and other great Greek poets and musicians.