Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Rebel, Entry 8, Plato

     Now I've really gone off. I got a whole bunch of Plato on Audio CD: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, The Republic, and The Symposium. I've listened to all of it except for the end of The Phaedo -- oh, man, I think Socrates is in trouble... Plato makes a big point of disallowing poets, in particular Homer, from The Republic. It has been pointed out with tiresome frequency that the dialogues are themselves art, with the attendant questioning as to whether Plato is a hypocrite and with the answer that since his art is in the service of dialectic, it is not subject to the same objections as Homer. Plato has specific problems with Homer.  First, Homer represents unstable personalities in a heroic way. Homer's poetry does not do what the dialogues do, instruct. So is Plato agrees with Camus that Homer is a poetical rebel.
     The question is, what is the status of Socrates? Camus would likely say that Socrates was not a Rebel. In fact, Socrates' prime foe, embodied by the Sophists, is a kind of nihilism. What problematizes ( -- I love the fact this has a wikipedia page) Socrates' status is his questioning of authority, is being a gadfly( -- that's right, there's one for this, too) the same as being a rebel, or, a Rebel?
     But it seems to me that neither the sophists nor Socrates qualify as Rebels.  While the sophists might qualify as 'metaphysical rebels' in the sense that they relativize 'Truth' in much the same way postmodernism does, Socrates might qualify as a 'rebel' because of his commitment to ultimate Truth. But neither rebel against the established order: the sophists exploit the order of the day to teach other to do the same, Socrates, when given the chance to flee rather than die, reaffirms his allegiance to the social order and chooses to die. In this sense neither is really a rebel.
     Perhaps the Rebel is represented by Thrasymachus in The Republic, after all, he tells the story of the Ring of Gyges, which is a libertine story worthy of Sade. Callicles, from the Gorgias, also comes to mind. But Protagoras is not a Rebel, neither is Euthryphro. So, nihilism can take the form of extreme conformity for the purposes of gaining advantage; commitment to 'Truth' can be used for rebellion, but I think not as 'Rebellion'. In order to qualify as a rebel I would think it means, as Camus says, 'saying no'.  The 'no' can be to the universe or to a society. Rebellion(with a capital 'R') in Camus' sense might be more like the old Greek view of insanity: beating the sea with sticks. The Greeks saw this as insanity, the Romantics heroize it. Well, acting insanely(unless you're a government or multinational corporation) usually ends badly, so I can hardly recommend it.

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