Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Republic Book 10, Final

Theories of art require an underlying theory of consciousness. E.g. the point of a dance is to make you feel a certain way. To properly describe a theory of dance, one has to have names for the kinds of feelings the dances are supposed to inspire.

Not to mention the feelings of the audience and the feelings of the dancer themselves differ. The highest quality of dance arranges the relationship intentionally and coherently with the rest of the dance, something which is impossible without first describing both feelings in enough detail to predict them. Call it choreographic engineering. 

Because of the above difference, the point of watching a dance isn't really to watch a dance. The point is to learn the dance and perform it yourself, in private if necessary. This is true of science as well. Is science a dance, or is dance a science? I hope nobody promised you the stellar path is easy to walk.


Book 10 is the final book. 

"But when a painter paints a picture of a bed, we agree that it is not a real bed [...]But we have all agreed that a bed upon which people repose is not even a real bed. The truly real bed is the Form of Bed"

Reminder that among the critics of the theory of Platonic forms you can find such luminaries as Plato.

Ignore for the moment the form of the Bed. Discard it. Think instead of the form of [the bed you're witnessing]. The form of [the thought of the bed]. Not only is this still a proper Platonic form, not only is this form easy to grasp, this form is in fact impossible not to grasp. It is defined by and as whatever you happen to be grasping. Plato committed the sin of aposiopesis. If you think through the idea all the way to the end you find it's a degenerate idea, a distinction of no distinction. Everything is the form of itself.

We already live in the world of forms. Well isn't that neat? 

Real entities have real causal effects. If Platonic forms were real, you would be able to experimentally verify which objects are more formal and which are less formal. Not only can we not do that, Plato can't even tell you what such an experiment might look like.


Plato is clearly gearing up to reject art, mistakenly. If a physical bed isn't a Bed, why would it matter if a drawing of a physical bed also isn't a real Bed? Even if we accept that not being a Platonic form is a bad thing, non-art is already not a form. As expected of a distinction of no distinction, we find that relative to the form category, art and non-art are not distinguished.

Is a dialogue not a form of art? It's clearly not what literally happened; Plato is condemning exactly what he himself is doing. 

Plato (unlike modern idiot-academics) does address this, but the argument is so weak I don't feel the need to address it. 

"Philosophers, we are reminded, know the Forms and Goodness itself. Artists do not know the Truth."

Yeah well my dad can beat up your dad.

Nuh uh! I can eat fifty-one raw onions without crying!

Plato's actual objection was that Athenian artists were bad. This was true. The Sturgeon ratio for Fascist art is not 90%, but 100%. "the arts have a morally corrupting impact on men in that dramatic presentations, for example, provoke us to become enraged, or to burst into tears, or to laugh uproariously; they make men act like women or buffoons. We are deluded into sympathizing with the artifice of the stage, and that is simply bad for our characters."

However, it is still true that the best clods of this crud can be good enough. It is in fact possible to reject utopianism and embrace humility. Beholding a high god directly would destroy you. This is not because the divine is bad, but because you are weak. Standing on Sol's surface is lethal, but that's not because having a sun is a bad thing. Likewise, does humanity deserve good art? Likely, it does not. Beholding good art directly would destroy you. Be satisfied with the mediocre.

More generally, the cosmos is a work of art. If you're not sure, try looking up at night. 

Of all things created, art per se was one of them. Do you claim greater wisdom than the creator god?

By pridefully rejecting art as "illusionary," Plato rejects Reality and Existence as "illusionary." He rejects that which determines the Truth, and thus rejects the Truth. 

P.S. Just because art exists doesn't mean you have to look at it. You can unilaterally make your society artless if you want. Don't need anyone's permission. If this is a good idea, Gnon will reward you. Your argument can be your personal flourishing, rather than ivory tower armchair thinking. Or maybe it's a bad idea, and you get the opposite. 



"Socrates initiates the conclusion of the dialogue by announcing that the rewards of justice are granted to the just after their mortal lives are over."

Gross. "The gods hate you, want you to suffer, and punish you for honouring them." Yeah, uh, no. Defection is irrational. Literally claiming the heavens are unjust, moron.

The gods, too, must be responsible. If they want something, they try to achieve it by paying for it. Logic is the law even the highest gods must bow to.

"But the souls of unjust men are not destroyed by injustice, and neither are the souls of just men."

Really? How do you know?

If any rewards of justice are seen beyond mortal life, why wouldn't the punishments of injustice also echo beyond the temporal realm? 

Alt: how do you know injustice rots the soul? Sounds like a prideful bare assumption to me.
Physical energy is perfectly conserved. Is energy, the signature of all physical existence, immortal? Pure and impervious to evil? If every component of your body made of perfect immortality, how is your body itself not immortal?

How did ""Socrates"" not think to ask questions like these? I am in fact interested in how Plato (or even Glaucon) would answer them. Naturally I can answer them myself, but I'm hardly confident in my answers. Anyway if I have to answer them all myself, what's the point of reading anyone else? 

Plato is at least (sometimes) on topic, but he still doesn't think about the issues seriously. Ironically, despite being vastly longer than the descriptions warrant, the Republic is nowhere near long enough to cover the topics raised. Plato stops five steps into a journey of leagues. 



"Myth of Er"

If you made a mistake telling the myth, how would you know?
We're not suddenly claiming to be infallible, are we?
If you made a mistake hearing the myth, how would you notice?
If Er made a mistake, how would you correct it?



A society that cannot think will die as surely as one that cannot make war or cannot build and create. 

The merchant has it easy. Creation has no corresponding vice, and for simple acts of creation one only needs fidelity to the self. Almost any sincere attempt at wealth generation will be worthwhile. How creative is creative enough? Any creative is creative enough.

The warrior sees a greater challenge, but ultimately a mortal one. He needs to be better than the next warrior over. Wiser too, yes, but as you know if you've met a warrior, this is not usually a high bar. How courageous is courageous enough?

The scholar must grapple with the divine, and he has to get it right. How much falsehood is too much? Almost any falsehood is too much.

As destruction is easier than creation - another point lowering the bar for warriors - lies are easier than speaking the truth. If a scholar makes a mistake, the lie will naturally spread. To naturally prevent it means that his fellow scholars must be better at his subject than he is, which raises the question of why he wasn't already cast out.

When an individual warrior fails in his duties, he dies and his comrades can finish the battle without him. When a scholar fails in his duties, he will bring down divine wrath not only on himself, but his whole society. When a warrior fails he gets beat up. He does not need any deep understanding to know he has failed. When a scholar fails, the damage comes slowly and subtly. 

In both art and kenning, you would hope that the second generation would build on the successes of the first, and discard their errors. Unfortunately, the opposite reliably occurs. The errors remain while the successes are discarded. Luckily there are new successes, as mortals can no more be totally free of truth than they can be totally free of falsehood. 

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Plato that a philosopher-king would be just as capable of writing The Republic as, for example, Plato was. Rather, likely to be better for myriad reasons. Plato's words can be considered no more than an afternoon's idle sketching. "Hey, uh, have a smart person in charge." Figured that out on your own, did you?

What if this successor p-king figures out his Republic should have no p-king? What then, Plato? What then? 

Certainly, we want wise kings. Ignorant kings are unambiguously worse. However, aristocrats have, historically, offered their offspring rather dubious tutelage. 

More importantly, nobody has figured out how to reliably transmit wisdom to regular individuals, never mind lords and kings. This is a walk-before-running situation, and it's important to get to the starting line before assuming you've passed the finish line. Maybe, one day, in a couple thousand years, we might advance from reading Plato to understanding Socrates. "All that I know about making someone wise is that I know nothing - so let's go look. Try a thing, see what happens." 

What causes something like the Royal Society to occur? What causes it to fall? If we knew what caused it, we could figure out what interrupts those causes. Using prototypes, not armchair theorizing or sweeping mandates.  If we knew what the threats were, we could, just maybe, secure our shit.

In Earthly terms, justice is a manufactured good. A good society manually rewards cooperators and manually punishes defectors. It's irrelevant whether it is also some transcendent Truth or not. On Earth, justice is an artisanal craft, like carving a bowl or joining a chair.

Plato clearly hated the prosaic. For him, everything has to be profound all the time. Since Earthly justice is prosaic, and the West is nothing more than series of footnotes to Plato, this is a serious problem. A just society is built of everyday acts of justice performed by ordinary folk. It's irrelevant whether they understand what they're doing. Gnon rewards wise action whether the actor is in fact wise or not. 

I would like to think there is high demand for justice. To get a just society, all that's necessary is to legalize and lionize its production. Allow justice-producers to get rich producing justice. However, it is horrifyingly possible that in fact demand for justice is low. 

Maybe the fair price simply doesn't exceed the production costs. That mortals are simply too stupid to understand what's in their best interests. In this case, forcibly distributing justice doesn't work. "You will live without crime and betrayal, and you will like it!" "Nooo! Anything but that!" Narrator: "They didn't like it." You will always be outgunned by a faction that offers injustice instead. "Come with me if you want to reap all sorts of unjust spoils." "Ooh! Dibs!" 

In this latter case, justice is an occult specialty good. You can have it, but only by secretly gathering other rare justice-demanders, and keeping your justice-cult hidden from the wider culture. E.g. by camouflage; it's not in practice difficult to portray the justice as some terrible burden or a weird peccadillo. Never allow the justice-cult to be too obviously rich, and you're golden. As every writer everywhere on wisdom agrees, monetary wealth is overrated. Cool and all, but rarely worth the price. Let the justice-deprecators squabble over the Scrooge vaults. 

Ironically, the world can be far more glorious than utopians imagine. However, it is not done by removing all error, but by laboriously creating new wonders. Destruction is easy. Creation is difficult. The Dao rewards effort, not taking the lazy path.

What if Er's myth per se was right, but the wrong myth to tell? What if there's a myth that's better in every way? How would you notice? How would you find it?

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