Category Archives: Known scientific research & development during the rise of Islam

‘Politeia’ Book II

The Platonic quotes listed below demonstrate how man is naturally too undisciplined, opportunist or lazy to really strive after goodness. Injustice concealed by just appearance is the one end of the scale, leading to worldly power; the other end is justice not willing to put up an appearance and seemingly unjust, a road leading to suffering and other people’s disapproval. Powerful people establish secret societies in order to cover up certain actions. The reason is, that people don’t really know if God or the gods exist, so why truly bother, and that there are powerful deities to defend them when they are due for judgment in the hereafter. Only wise, knowing people can attain goodness: true philosophers. They must lead society, in avoidance of conflict among each other, they must educate the young censoring frivolous lecture with lies about God. God? Or the gods? A clear distinction isn’t made. However, God cannot change, because He is perfect and could only change for the worse, which is impossible for God. These are the main quotes:

‘… but to my mind the nature of justice and injustice have not yet been made clear. Setting aside their rewards and results, I want to know what they are in themselves, and how they inwardly work in the soul. If you, please, then, I will revive the argument of Thrasymachus. And first I will speak of the nature and origin of justice according to the common view of them. Secondly, I will show that all men who practise justice do so against their will, of necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, I will argue that there is reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all better far than the life of the just —if what they say is true, Socrates, since I myself am not of their opinion. But still I acknowledge that I am perplexed when I hear the voices of Thrasymachus and myriads of others dinning in my ears; and, on the other hand, I have never yet heard the superiority of justice to injustice maintained by any one in a satisfactory way. I want to hear justice praised in respect of itself’ (Politeia II)

‘And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice; —it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice. … having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of law.’ (Politeia II)

‘Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of craft; like the skilful pilot or physician, who knows intuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits, and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie hidden if he means to be great in his injustice (he who is found out is nobody): for the highest reach of injustice is: to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. … And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two. … They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound —will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled: Then he will understand that he ought to seem only, and not to be, just; the words of Aeschylus may be more truly spoken of the unjust than of the just. For the unjust is pursuing a reality; he does not live with a view to appearances —he wants to be really unjust and not to seem only: “His mind has a soil deep and fertile, / Out of which spring his prudent counsels”. … he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in the city; he can marry whom he will, and give in marriage to whom he will; also he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own advantage, because he has no misgivings about injustice and at every contest, whether in public or private, he gets the better of his antagonists, and gains at their expense, and is rich, and out of his gains he can benefit his friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he can offer sacrifices, and dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and magnificently, and can honour the gods or any man whom he wants to honour in a far better style than the just, and therefore he is likely to be dearer than they are to the gods. And thus, Socrates, gods and men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the life of the just. … Parents and tutors are always telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but why? not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputation; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just some of those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the reputation of justice. More, however, is made of appearances by this class of persons than by the others; for they throw in the good opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which the heavens, as they say, rain upon the pious… (Politeia II)

‘Once more, Socrates, I will ask you to consider another way of speaking about justice and injustice, which is not confined to the poets, but is found in prose writers. The universal voice of mankind is always declaring that justice and virtue are honourable, but grievous and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion. They say also that honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty; and they are quite ready to call wicked men happy, and to honour them both in public and private when they are rich or in any other way influential, while they despise and overlook those who may be weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better than the others. But most extraordinary of all is their mode of speaking about virtue and the gods: they say that the gods apportion calamity and misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked. And mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power committed to them by the gods of making an atonement for a man’s own or his ancestor’s sins by sacrifices or charms, with rejoicings and feasts; and they promise to harm an enemy, whether just or unjust, at a small cost; with magic arts and incantations binding heaven, as they say, to execute their will. And the poets are the authorities to whom they appeal…’ (Politeia II)

With a view to concealment we will establish secret brotherhoods and political clubs. And there are professors of rhetoric who teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies; and so, partly by persuasion and partly by force, I shall make unlawful gains and not be punished. Still I hear a voice saying that the gods cannot be deceived, neither can they be compelled. But what if there are no gods? or, suppose them to have no care of human things —why in either case should we mind about concealment? And even if there are gods, and they do care about us, yet we know of them only from tradition and the genealogies of the poets; and these are the very persons who say that they may be influenced and turned by ‘sacrifices and soothing entreaties and by offerings.’ Let us be consistent then, and believe both or neither. If the poets speak truly, why then we had better be unjust, and offer of the fruits of injustice; for if we are just, although we may escape the vengeance of heaven, we shall lose the gains of injustice; but, if we are unjust, we shall keep the gains, and by our sinning and praying, and praying and sinning, the gods will be propitiated, and we shall not be punished. ‘But there is a world below in which either we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds.’ Yes, my friend, will be the reflection, but there are mysteries and atoning deities, and these have great power. That is what mighty cities declare; and the children of the gods, who were their poets and prophets, bear a like testimony. … And even if there should be some one who is able to disprove the truth of my words, and who is satisfied that justice is best, still he is not angry with the unjust, but is very ready to forgive them, because he also knows that men are not just of their own free will; unless, peradventure, there be some one whom the divinity within him may have inspired with a hatred of injustice, or who has attained knowledge of the truth — but no other man. He only blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some weakness, has not the power of being unjust. And this is proved by the fact that when he obtains the power, he immediately becomes unjust as far as he can be.’ (Politeia II)

‘And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is philosophy? They are the same, he replied. And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a lover of wisdom and knowledge? That we may safely affirm. Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the state will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength? Undoubtedly. Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this enquiry which may be expected to throw light on the greater enquiry which is our final end —How do justice and injustice grow up in states? … And when you speak of music, do you include literature or not? I do. And literature may be either true or false? Yes. … we begin by telling children stories which, though not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main fictitious; and these stories are told them when they are not of an age to learn gymnastics. Very true. That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music before gymnastics. … And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up? We cannot. Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorised ones only. A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie, and, what is more, a bad lie. But when is this fault committed? Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and heroes, —as when a painter paints a portrait not having the shadow of a likeness to the original.’ (Politeia II)

‘Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him. … If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty. Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would any one, whether God or man, desire to make himself worse? Impossible. … Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood? Yes. Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or waking vision. Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own. You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form in which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive mankind in any way.’ (Politeia II)

Sources:

Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia http://www.arsfloreat.nl
The Koran, translated with notes by N.J. Dawood, Penguin Books

We’ll see Qur’an follow this lead to a large extend, but then take a different route. We do not spiritual leaders and scholars, we must obey them, but within boundaries. Qur’an abandons the idea of philosophers naturally being the ones to guide a good society, as they may and will have the same defaults as other people. We need our own judgement on what to follow, not even philosophers can intermediate between us and God, with a few rare exeptions.

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Similarities between Plato’s Politeia and the Holy Qur’an

Firstly, generally, Plato can teach us Muslims too on the field of the human psychology and mind: mostly true and modern are his words and insights. For good reasons he still is one of the most taught and quoted philosophers of humanity. His texts may be helpful to understand Qur’an better, because they resemble several Qur’anic texts, or shed another, clarifying light on them. Now we enter specific texts that tell us the most striking similarities and differences between Qur’an and ‘Politeia’.

Book I

Book I explains us how justice and issues of interest between different roles in society work and how they correlate logically. The scientific aspect of these texts is not bringing us mere facts; it’s their exercise in logic and reason in general, they are supposed to teach us a thinking attitude.

‘But can the musician by his art make men unmusical? Certainly not. Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen? Impossible. And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking general can the good by virtue make them bad? Assuredly not. Any more than heat can produce cold? It cannot. Or drought moisture? Clearly not. Nor can the good harm any one? Impossible. And the just is the good? Certainly. Then to injure a friend or any one else is not the act of a just man, but of the opposite, who is the unjust? I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates. Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts, and that good is the debt which a man owes to his friends, and evil the debt which he owes to his enemies, —to say this is not wise; for it is not true, if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of another can be in no case just.  … I believe that Periander or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias the Theban, or some other rich and mighty man, who had a great opinion of his own power, was the first to say that justice is ‘doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies.” (Politeia I)

‘Then medicine does not consider the interest of medicine, but the interest of the body? True, he said. Nor does the art of horsemanship consider the interests of the art of horsemanship, but the interests of the horse; neither do any other arts care for themselves, for they have no needs; they care only for that which is the subject of their art? True, he said. But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts are the superiors and rulers of their own subjects? To this he assented with a good deal of reluctance. Then, I said, no science or art considers or enjoins the interest of the stronger or superior, but only the interest of the subject and weaker? He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally acquiesced. Then, I continued, no physician, in so far as he is a physician, considers his own good in what he prescribes, but the good of his patient; for the true physician is also a ruler having the human body as a subject, and is not a mere money – maker; that has been admitted? Yes.’ (Politeia I)

‘You would not be inclined to say, would you, that navigation is the art of medicine, at least if we are to adopt your exact use of language? Certainly not. Or because a man is in good health when he receives pay you would not say that the art of payment is medicine? I should say not. Nor would you say that medicine is the art of receiving pay because a man takes fees when he is engaged in healing? Certainly not. And we have admitted, I said, that the good of each art is specially confined to the art? Yes. Then, if there be any good which all artists have in common, that is to be attributed to something of which they all have the common use? True, he replied.’ (Politeia I)

‘Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we were before saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their subjects who are the weaker and not the stronger —to their good they attend and not to the good of the superior. And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest, but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing. … what the penalty is I do not understand, or how a penalty can be a payment. You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment which to the best men is the great inducement to rule? Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace? Very true.’ (Politeia I)

‘And about knowledge and ignorance in general; see whether you think that any man who has knowledge ever would wish to have the choice of saying or doing more than another man who has knowledge. Would he not rather say or do the same as his like in the same case? That, I suppose, can hardly be denied. And what of the ignorant? would he not desire to have more than either the knowing or the ignorant? I dare say. And the knowing is wise? Yes. And the wise is good? True. Then the wise and good will not desire to gain more than his like, but more than his unlike and opposite? I suppose so. Whereas the bad and ignorant will desire to gain more than both? Yes.’ (Politeia I)

‘I would rather ask the question more generally, and only enquire whether the things which fulfil their ends fulfil them by their own proper excellence, and fall of fulfilling them by their own defect? Certainly, he replied. I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot fulfil their end? True. … And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and injustice the defect of the soul? That has been admitted. Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill? That is what your argument proves. And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the reverse of happy? Certainly. Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable? So be it.‘ (Politeia I)

Can we find similar texts in the Holy Qur’an? Qur’an ordains us to study visible nature for both practical means, but also to come nearer to it’s creator: God. Goodness, however, is more than knowledge and wisdom needed for building a just society; eventually it should lead to the realization that the harmonious system in everything can have one master only. Like in Politeia, we read that goodness is about servitude, serving someone or a cause objectively, without self-interest. Qur’an also sets boundaries to knowledge: we can never observe the one master, nor the master’s spirit, but he perceives us all the time. This is an issue of faith that believers may conclude through thinking, but they can only philosophically prove anything of it. If we forget the idea of a god as a person, rather see him as a force, or a common interest behind everything there is, we may rationalize a proof of God’s existence or presence. Since we can’t give an observed proof of a god, the issue has been one of the world’s oldest debates and will be, perhaps. Plato gives us more detailed philosophical instruments, but Qur’an gives us the very first basics from where we can start any study or research. The Qur’anic verses mentioned here are repeated at several other Suras.

‘Do not confound truth with falsehood, nor knowingly hide the truth. … Would you enjoin righteousness on others and forget it yourselves?’ Q:2:42,44

‘Say: ‘Let us have your proof, if what you say be true’ Q:2:111

‘He kindles the light of dawn. He has ordained the night for rest and the Sun and the Moon for reckoning. Such is the ordinance of Allah, the Mighty One, the All-Knowing. It is He that has created for you the stars, so that they may guide you in the darkness of land and sea. We have made plain Our revelations to men of wisdom.’ Q:6:96,97

‘They disbelieve what they cannot grasp, for events have not yet justified it. Those who passed before them acted in the same way. …’ Q:10:39

‘They say: ‘Allah has begotten a son.’ Allah forbid! Self-sufficient is He. His is all that the heavens and the earth contain. Surely for this you have no sanction. Would you say of Allah what you do not know? Say: ‘Those that invent falsehoods about Allah shall not triumph.‘ Q:10:68,69

‘As for those that have faith and do good works and humble themselves before their Lord, they are the heirs of Paradise and there they shall abide forever. Can the blind and the deaf be compared to those that can see and hear? Such are the unbelievers compared to the faithful. Will you not take heed?’ Q:11:23,24

‘He has given you horses, mules and donkeys, which you may ride or use as ornaments; and He has created other things beyond your knowledge. … It is He who sends down water from the sky, which provides drink for you and brings forth the crops on which your cattle feed. And thereby He brings up corn and olives, dates and grapes and other fruit. Surely in this there is a sign for thinking men. He has forced the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, into your service: the stars also serve you by His leave. Surely in this there are signs for men of understanding. … Is He, then, who has wrought the creation, like him who has created noting? Will you take no heed’ Q:16:8,10,11,17

‘He (Allah) also makes this comparison. Take a dumb and helpless man, a burden on his master: wherever he sends him he returns with empty hands. Is he equal with one who enjoins justice and follows the right path?’ Q:16:76

‘When We change one verse for another (Allah knows best what He reveals) they say: ‘You are an imposter.’ Indeed most of them are ignorant men.’ Q:16:101

‘We made the night and the day twin marvels. We enshrouded the night with darkness and gave light to the day, so that you might seek the bounty of your Lord and learn to compute the seasons and the years. We have made made all things manifestly plain to you.‘ Q:17:12

‘Say: ‘It is for you to believe in it or to deny it. Those to whom knowledge was given before its revelation prostrate themselves when it is recited to them and say: ‘Glorious is our Lord. His promise has been fulfilled.” Q:17:107

‘Some profess to serve Allah and yet stand on the very fringe of true faith. When blessed with good fortune they are content, but when an ordeal befalls them they turn upon their heels, forfeiting this life and the hereafter. That way perdition lies.’ Q:22:11

‘Those who surrender themselves to Allah and accept the true faith; who re devout, sincere, patient, humble, charitable, and chaste; who fast and are ever mindful of Allah – on these, both men and women, Allah will bestow forgiveness and a rich reward.’ Q:33:35

‘We have given mankind in this Koran all manner of arguments, so that they may take heed. … Consider this comparison. There are two men: the one has many masters who are ever at odds among themselves; the other has one master, to whom he is devoted. Are these two to be held alike? Allah forbid! But most of them have no knowledge.’ Q:39:27,29

‘I created mankind and the jinn (spirits) in order that they might worship Me. I demand no livelihood of them, nor do I ask that they should feed Me. Allah alone is the Munificent Giver, the Mighty One, the Invincible. Those that now do wrong shall meet their predecessors’ doom. Let them not challenge Me to hurry it on.’ Q:51:57-59

‘Say: ‘Allah is One, the Eternal God. He begot none, nor was He begotten. None is equal to Him’. Q:112:1-4

Sources:

Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia http://www.arsfloreat.nl
The Koran, translated with notes by N.J. Dawood, Penguin Books

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A first comparison between Plato’s ‘Politeia’ and Qur’anic texts

The Sun is the highest source of light and goodness; God is the Sun, according to Plato. We now know that the Sun isn’t the highest source of light, thanks to our measuring equipment and space voyages.  Plato admits that geometry and three dimensional arithmetics are ‘difficult’, but also thinks that in order to know the real truth of things numbers and calculations, stripped from real objects, are enough. Objects are confusing because distance, shape, color and material blur our observation. Apparently the Greeks had no real conception of what the stars are, let alone that they are at greater distance from the Earth and Sun and usually a lot bigger too. The Holy Qur’an, however, gives us a better idea of the Sun, Earth, Moon and other celestial bodies and denies them any divine nature:

‘He kindles the light of dawn. He has ordained the night for rest and the Sun and the Moon for reckoning. Such is the ordinance of Allah, the Mighty One, the All-knowing. It is He that has created for you the stars, so that they may guide you in the darkness of land and sea. We have made plain Our revelations to men of wisdom.’ Q:6:95,96

‘On the Earth He has fashioned for you objects of various hues: surely in this there is a sign for prudent men. It is He who has subjected to you the ocean, so that you may eat of its fresh fish and bring up from it ornaments with which to adorn your persons. Behold the ships ploughing their course through it. All this He has created, that you may seek His bounty and render thanks to Him. He set firm mountains upon the Earth lest it should move away with you; and rivers, roads, and landmarks, so that you may be rightly guided. By the stars, too, are men directed.’ Q:16:15,16

‘Are the disbelievers unaware that the heavens and the earth were one solid mass which We tore asunder, and that We made every living thing of water? …’ Q:21:30

‘It was He who created the night and the day, and the Sun and the Moon: each moves swiftly in an orbit of its own.’ Q:21:33

‘Do you not see how your Lord lengthens the shadows? Had it been His will He could have made them constant. But He makes the Sun their guide; little by little He shortens them.’ Q:25:45,46

‘Blessed be He who decked the sky with constellations and set in it a lamp and a shining moon. He makes the night succeed the day: a sign to those who would take heed and render thanks.’ Q:25:61,62

‘… He made the Sun and the Moon obedient to Him, each running for an appointed time. …’ Q:39:5

‘In two days He formed the sky into seven heavens, and to each heaven He assigned its task. We decked the lowest with brilliant stars and guardian comets. …’ Q:41:12

‘Among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. But do not prostrate yourselves before the sun or the moon; rather prostrate yourselves before Allah, who created them both, if you would truly serve Him.’ Q:41:37

‘The Lord of the two easts is He, and the Lord of the two Wests. …’ Q:55:17

‘It is Allah who has created seven heavens, and earths as many. His commandment descends through them, so that you may know that Allah has power over all things, and that He has knowledge of all things.’ Q:65:12

We better understand now the role of perspective and light: a nearby light has a stronger impact than a light at great distance and these verses do justice to that. Sun and Moon are nearer to us than the stars, yet these latter influence our vision too, as a source of light.

However, Plato’s cave parable resembles Qur’anic verses in so far, that it explains how light casts shadows and how travel and knowledge enlarge our perspective on things. When we look behind the horizon, we see new things and calculations help us position ourselves amongst it all. Yet, Qur’anic approach doesn’t exclude practical use from a high or educational position. The simple everyday things may teach us gratitude towards the source they came from: the creator. Qur’an acknowledges the value of mathematics and arithmetics, but abandoned them as chief source of wisdom.

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Politeia X

Plato describes the position of decorative and literary arts between design and craftsmanship and concludes that the arts should be rejected an important place in a society based on higher morality: they are nothing more than a mere imitation of design and craftsmanship without practical usability. We don’t ‘need’ the arts. The principle of often used items like a bed, a table, is designed by the one Creator who resides in the Hades: God. And craftsmen are the people to realize the design in all its variations in practice. A painter, however, only depicts a flat image of a bed, an imitation. This may work out in a misleading fashion, because a painter doesn’t know how to make a bed and a tragic poet, even a genius like Homerus, describes events he may not fully know the ins and outs of. Making an imitation of something may suggest real professional knowledge of how it works. If an artists did have this knowledge, he would prefer to spend his skills on producing the real thing, because producing something real is far more deserving of praise than producing imitations. Plato believes in absolute, indisputable beauty; artists as mere imitators have no knowledge of beauty because it is connected to truth and not to its imitation. Truth comes first, then practicing truth in reality and only third comes its decorative imitation. Like perspective, which makes things seem bigger as we approach, like magic, art plays tricks on our observation. Arts like poetry and painting appeal to emotions which may prevent us from finding rational solutions to a problem, even an emotional problem. A society governed by proper legislation bans such poets. We must never forget the two conflicting elements of human nature: reason and justice versus passions and instincts. A ban on poetry will be seen as harsh and rude when also poetry meant to praise the gods and good people would be included.

Each object in creation has its own evil that may destroy it in the end: rust destroys iron, sickness the body, yeast destroys wheat. Each individual life can be destroyed by evils like immoderation, injustice, ignorance. However, the principle of life itself is eternal. It cannot be destroyed. Eternity makes life immortal, yet life consists of variety, plurality, imbalance and inner contradiction. Inner love for wisdom, therefor truth, reconnects life, bruised and battered as it is by wear and tear, with its original purity. Justice brings man back to his original immortal nature. Plato describes the reincarnation of each human being in a parable: how the goddess of destiny, Anangke, spinns the circle of lives with a thread of light, then joins it with a pattern of possible destinies; man chooses a pattern that will his own next life. However, before passing Anangke, man must stand trial before judges in the hereafter. These judges sit in a field and send the just through a crack in heaven and the unjust through a crack in the earth; they themselves sit precisely in the middle between two cracks in the field; right above each crack is a crack in heaven. Both just and unjust people then travel some thousand years through either paradise or the subterreanean horrors and meet afterwards back in the field. It is a buzzle of coming and going people. From the field, seven days later, each person then travels further through the land towards a place where a big straight beam of light cuts through heaven and earth. They travel towards the source of this light, hanging on two strings of light, in the middle of which Anangke’s spindle winds the eternal circle of life, represented by this string of light. The spindle’s spine consists of eight axes precisely fitting into each other; each axe is covered by a ring in symbolic colors. The first axe, on the outside, has the biggest ring; the sixth ring is second biggest, the fourth third biggest, the eighth fourth, the seventh fifth, the fifth sixth, the third seventh and the second is eighth biggest in size. The biggest ring is multicolored, the seventh brightest, the eighth is colored by the seventh, the second and fifth ring have a resembling yellower color, the third is whitest colored, the fourth slightly red and the sixth is second whitest colored. The spindle turns into one direction, however, the seven inner axes slowly turn into the opposite direction. Of these seven, the eighth spinns fastest, then the seventh, then the sixth and fifth moving at same speed, the fourth seems to rock to and fro with the second fastest moving ring, while the ring of the third axe has third most speed and the second ring fourth most speed. The spindle itself turns in Anangke’s lap. A Siren sits on each ring producing a tuned sound, together making a tone scale. Anangke is surrounded by three other goddesses of destiny, Lachesis, Klotho and Atropos, singing in harmony with the Sirens respectively to the past, the present and the future and now and then pushing the axes to turn. A herald throws the people their lots and each person pics the lot fallen next to him, then unfolds the life patterns, by far exceeding the number of people. The life patterns are people and animals, male and female, in many variations: ie just, unjust, famous, excellent, tyrannical, humble or unconspicuous. Human qualities are the only qualities not comprised in the life patterns, because the choice of another life necessarily leads to another personality; good and bad conditions like poverty, good health, however, are. Choosing a new life is a vulnerable, irrevocable moment; it shows how necessary it is to gain knowledge in the previous life on the conditions that cause a fruitful or a useless life in order to properly being able to study the conditions attached to the new life pattern. The one who gets to choose first doesn’t necessarily pick the most beneficial pattern, because a rash choice may end up on the life of a tyrant. Those who had just suffered punishment in the underworld, are more likely to choose carefully. Animals or someone else’s previous life can be chosen too. Then unjust people would change into wild animals and just people into tame animals. Now Lachesis gives them each their own god the lot had assigned them as a life guard and completion of their choice; this god brings them to Klotho, who confirms their chosen lot with a spin of the spindle by hand, then to Atropos who will make sure that the spun threads cannot be distinguished any more. Passing Anangke’s throne they enter a difficult journey through a barren land towards the river Lethe. They were to drink a certain amount of its water, but some drank more than allowed. The water made them forget everything and when they had fallen asleep and midnight had arrived, thunder resounded, the earth shook and they were pushed into all directions towards their birth.

If we keep this story in mind, we will climb upwards in each life, make ourselves loved with the gods, always maintaining justice, moderation, being able to bear with good and evil, according to Plato.

Sources:
Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Wikipedia.org
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia http://www.arsfloreat.nl

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Politeia IX

Plato describes how man has two types of needs: healthy, benevolent, philosophical, well-disciplined needs based on moral justness and secondly bestial, unrestrained, hedonistic lusts which appear during sleep and are not based on morality. The individual human being has the same character as society as a whole, therefore we can recognize a tyrannic or a democratic character both in an entire society and in an individual. Plato says tyranny can only develop from democracy, because democracy has no formal ban on immoral behavior. Immoral behavior, such as the spendthrift party lifestyle, leads to financial and other ruin and this makes an individual susceptible to tyrannic actions like theft and violence on others. This is because such individual has no decent livelihood left. A tyrannic individual, however, like a tyrannic society, knows no real freedom within and suppresses any inclination towards philosophy or creativity, because a natural tyrant is slave of strong self destructive lusts that, also, make him naturally mistrusting of any other influence or input of others. Typical of a tyrannic society is that the head of state isn’t the only tyrant; local powerful persons are too and even many individuals are their own worst tyrant. There are three types of people: philosophical, ambitious and greedy people. This comes from the basic three human needs, namely the zest for learning, ambition and a third quality that has so many sides that we can’t name it, perhaps we should call it desire. Those who wish to learn, will do so to find truth. Ambitious people, however, will learn to acquire fame and influence over others. This means there are three kinds of happiness, too, happiness meaning a life where joy exceeds pain and leading to lifestyles we may qualify as either noble or vulgar, or good or bad. An important question here is: who has right, the philosophical, ambition or greedy person? In order to judge that, we need experience, intellect and reason. Every person acquires happiness from income and power. Only the philosophical person, however, truly knows to appreciate them, as he, she is the only one to appreciate truth. Only a philosopher knows the true merits of justified good reputation and wealth, because only a philosopher loves reason enough to hunt for truth. Happiness through wisdom is best. Second best is the happiness of the combatant person who cares for honor. Third comes the happiness of greedy people. Happiness is not peace, meaning absence of pain or bliss. Peace is a neutral state. A greedy or ambitious person isn’t likely to experience real happiness, because fulfillment of earthy and hedonistic needs gives only temporary bliss and is in their case usually troubled by envy and other negative emotion. Lasting happiness lies in truth and wisdom only and can only found by those willing to use reason. A tyraniccal person, always on the run from justice and reason, even exceeds the boundaries of ambitious or greedy happiness; his idea of happiness doesn’t get any further than fulfillment of lowly material hedonistic pleasures. Plato has tried to put degrees of happiness into numbers. A tyrant is three steps away from a democrat, a democrat three steps from an oligarch and an oligarch three steps away from a royal person. This brings a royal person 3^2 =  9 steps closer towards happiness than a tyrannical person, however, to really calculate the difference we must use another logarithm:

A royal person is 9^3 =  729 times happier than a tyrannical person!

The proof of correctness lies in Plato’s eyes in the fact that the year consists of 364 1/2 nights and 364 1/1 days: 729 periods and tyrannical lusts appear in the night when we dream. This shows how much a good and just person excells in happiness over an evil and unjust person; in qualities of the mind like kindness or beauty he will excell infinitely more! To understand how the struggle between goodness, justice, honesty and evil, beastly lusts works we must see how a monster with many beastly heads, a lion and a man meet and merge, then take the shape of a man. In good people the human part of the mind knows how to win over the lion and the monster, bad people suffer and starve under the ferocious fighting of the monster and the lion. A royal person can only be a philosopher; other people have to satisfy themselves with trade, manual labor, even with crime to satisfy their needs and more or less successfully fight their beasts inside.

Sources:
Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Wikipedia.org
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia http://www.arsfloreat.nl

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Politeia VIII

Plato continues about the ideal type of state: the aristocracy as discussed above guided by the most just, best educated people namely sincere philosophers and four other types of state: the state Sparta, the oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. From aristocracy a sixth type of state may rise and this must be seen as a deterioration: the timocracy, a society based on ambition. An aristocracy may dwindle down into a timocracy when men and women procreate at the wrong moment*, begetting weaker offspring and leading to the different classes of people starting to mingle. Society knows respectively a golden, silver, cupper and iron type of man. Mingling leads to disappearance of the most just and educated people: golden and silver people and thus to disharmony, struggle, hostility and finally a civil war. The leaders of a timocracy are practical, more interested in physical activity and ambitious for short term goals that match this attitude. They neglect the highest intellectual and moral standards. A timocracy in turmoil may deteriorate into an oligarchy: a society focused on possession, ruled by an avaricious type of leader, avaricious to both others and themselves. In a society focused on possession a gap grows between rich and poor, leading to a struggle. If the poor win, the wealthy will be expelled or killed and from then on all people may participate in society and governance on an equal footing. This is the birth of democracy: society based on freedom. Slaves, even animals enjoy the same freedom as their masters. People may say what they want, no restrictions or sanctions really exist, because there is no single moral standard. The mood goes with the flow of a then prevalent influence. If the prevalent influence is somehow harmful or demoralizing, opportunists grab their chance to win over those with whom power truly resides in a democracy: the large majority of poor people. This opportunist leads the people into a rebellion against remaining (and new) oligarchs and proclaims himself as a protector of the people. Such a position can only be maintained with violence: war fare and extermination of critics. Critics will disapprove of the lack of freedom under patronage of the leader. The tyrannic leader has to surround himself with a large staff of protectors and  guards. Thus democracy ends in a tyranny. Plato compares the tyrant with a son killing his father: a popular leader brought forth by an enslaved people finally enslaves his people again. Living under tyranny is being enslaved by  slaves.

*The wrong moment: Plato gave an arithmetic explanation of ‘the wrong’ moment to give birth: the moral and intellectual potential of each newly born is determined by logarithmic succession of numbers: the Platonic nuptial number. All of it seems mystical; many explanations have been given. Most likely the nuptial number corresponds with the number 12,960,000, an important number in Babylonian numerology that equals 60^4 =12,960,000, but it may also correspond with Plato’s number of citizens for the ideal state: 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 = 5,040. The ideal period to give birth, however, consists of a lapse of 3, 4 and 5 months in a mathematical combination:

3^3 + 4^3 + 5^3 = 6^3 = 216. However, 3 + 4 + 5 = 12, which may be 12 months. The numbers 3, 4, and 5 can also be used as lengths of the lines in a triple. When we go further with new combinations, we arrive again at 12,960,000:

5 x 12 = 60

60 x 60 = 3,600

3,600 x 60 = 216,000

216,000 x 60 =12,960,000.

36 x 36 = 1296 and 100 x 100 = 10,000 and 1,296 x 10,000 = 12,960,000

A perfect square may have sides of each 3,600 and thus a surface of 12,960,000 in a relation of 1 : 1. The relation equals the harmony of unisound in music.

Then we add Pythagoras’ hypothesis on another perfect square, with sides of each 5 and corners named A, B, C and D and cut it in two at corners B and D:

AB^2 + AD^2 = BD^2

25 + 25 = 50.

The real length of BD, however, is 7. Plato used this problem to arrive at his nuptial number in another way:

BD^2 – 1 = √50^2 – 2 = 48.

(4800 x 100) x (2700 x 100) = 1,2960,000

‘The relation 4,800 : 3,600 is used in Greek music structure, now used in all music in the West: minor seventh’, a commentator on Plato said. (Stichting Ars Floreat Without entering a full disclosure of tone scales in western music: it consists of seven basic tones, called root tones, from A to G. Sometimes a tone scale starts at C, sometimes G, sometimes F, A, it depends on the intended mood of the music and the instrument. On a C scale we count from C to exactly the same, higher tone above it: C. In total eight notes. Between the root tones half tones exist. Major tone scales maintain a bigger distance between tones; chords or harmonies then have a more contrasting, higher, brighter sound; minor tone scales sound deeper, darker, more melancholic, sometimes dissonant,    because of smaller distance between tones, more half distances. Minor scales differ between second and third note only a half tone and major scales between third and fourth and between seventh and eighth note only a half note, generally speaking.

This extra elaboration on music and math has to do with Plato’s fascination for any correspondence between them; his use of numbers in geometry somehow corresponds with tone scales and he must have seen beauty in it and a philosophical lesson. Though many commentators have speculated about it.

Sources:
Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Wikipedia.org
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia http://www.arsfloreat.nl
http://mathsforeurope.digibel.be/story.htm
Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/minor-seventh-chords-a113729
‘Wiskunde op het net’ http://wiskunde.ebrodesign.com/index.php?id=20&gr=1
Chord Mine http://www.chordmine.com/guitar-chords/chord/chord_3.aspx

 

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The Cave Parable

Politeia VII: Plato continues now about God. God cannot be known through discussion, observation or the mind. Education cannot build a relationship between God and the believer, this has to come from divine revelation and human reasoning and interpretation. Goodness itself is God’s substance. Plato mentions one God as creator, goodness itself, governor of creation. If a community is cut off a divinity, it can never reach harmony as coming from true happiness. Therefor Plato likes to see a representative of the divinity and spokesman of divine will as leader of the community. The Egyptians were seen as role models for a happy society. The cave parable as explanatory example has become famous; it deals with observation, knowledge and human limitation. Light and water are important divine forces of knowledge, intelligence, purification and creation. The Sun is the highest source of light and goodness; God is the Sun. What about the cave? The cave is a subterranean prison where people with their necks and legs in tight chains; all they can is look forward. An opening the size of the cave itself supplies them with air and behind their backs, hight above them, burns a fire. There’s a road between the fire and the prisoners, shielded from them by a wall. Many people walk on this road, carrying objects like rocks, wooden statues of men and animals, lifted above the wall. Some talk, others don’t. The only thing each prisoner can see, is his own, his fellow prisoners’ and the shadows belonging to the objects carried around him on the road behind him. The prisoners take the shadows for the entire truth, maybe their own conversations and those of the pedestrians outside, for reality. Truth is that the prisoners live in a very small reality. If one of them is released and allowed to go outside, he has to get used to the abundant light, before he can see the landscape, other people and last but not least the Sun itself. He will understand that the Sun is source of all light, including the little bit in the cave. Now his reality has expanded, he never wants to go back to the small cave world, which stands for ignorance. The world that many people live in. Should he go back, he eagerly wants to enlighten the prisoners of the big world outside. They, however, see him stumble in clumsily, having to readjust to the darkness, and don’t believe that he is in such better situation. They will refuse to follow him outside. This is the position of those who have seen the bigger truth of divine observation and light having to return to human sorrows and behave clumsily, the popular image of philosophers and religious figures that cause others to mock them. Eyes can be blinded both ways: coming from darkness and coming from the light, it causes the observer to feel fortunate over the experience and living conditions before and pity the others. It shows that knowledge can’t be planted into a person. Man possesses all capabilities on every field, but has to focus with the entire body towards the light in order to see the reality of everything and be able to bear it’s shine. It’s about looking into the right direction, to about implanting the capability to see. What we call good qualities resemble bodily functions; a quality not yet present can be developed by repetition and training. Reason rather has a divine origin, it never leaves us and depends on what we focus on and how, if the intention is good or malicious. The leaders of a perfect society must have seen both the big outside world and been back in the cave and look with its inhabitants to the shadows on the wall, knowing where the shadows originate from. Observation alone isn’t always enough to inform our senses, because some observations miss context: presence of contrasts, different size, or distance between different observations. An objective, eternal, universal standard is needed for comparison of observations and then we end up needing accounting. How soft is soft? How big is big, how red is red? Our vision confuses these concepts. Both the military and philosophy need reason by means of arithmetics and algebra to end up at truth. Those aspiring to fulfill the highest posts in society ought to master arithmetics, not for making a profit, but if they successfully want to dedicate themselves to truth and reality. Socrates passionately supports the thought that numbers had to be separated from physical objects and must be seen as abstraction; in his view division into fractions really is multiplication. Only by reason, not by observation arithmetics can be properly understood. Physical objects and shapes, in other words down to earth practicality, are no useful first study realms for leaders of society; practically can only be understood if we understand the truth behind it all. Arithmetics should be the first compulsory study, then two-dimensional geometry, then three-dimensional geometry and fourth astronomy, if we want to know eternal truth. First simply numbers, then length, then, being more complicated and unknown, depth in single objects, and fourth depth in and between moving objects. Musicology is seen as astronomy’s opposite and should be studied not for its emotion but for its mathematical tone harmony and contrast. Both astronomy and musicology should be studied for their common characteristics and origin. If ever we want to practice reason, we must first have complete view over all that is, like the released cave prisoners, before we can properly judge what we see. To understand Goodness itself, we must have seen all of truth: the borders of everything we can reach, namely the Sun, the celestial bodies. Researching all that grows or was made by man isn’t the method; the clean and objective methods of arithmetics, geometry, astronomy and musicology are the right way to gain real knowledge. Reason, not empirical research. Reason must be part of higher education that must start at young age. The way to raise philosopher able to lead the community is higher education starting at very young age with sports, then the science mentioned and finally, no means before thirty years of age, an effort at debate can be made. Only those children with high intellect, strong memory, endurance and honesty are suited for this life, women included.

Sources:
Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Wikipedia.org
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia

 

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