What would happen if a group of HBU students, faculty, and staff joined together to read Plato’s Republic? What will we see? What will we learn? Our host is not Cephalus, but Professor Al Geier of the University of Rochester: a master of the dialectic and a father in the logos.
We began with ten rules of the road . . . I will posting this as we go so if you want to begin at the beginning . . . go to the bottom! These are notes and will be unedited or lightly edited. Read them if you wish as markers of a discussion. This sort of record, when I read it from others, helps provoke me to thought. I hope it helps at least one other soul. One final note: it is not a commentary or an “academic” exercise. It is a series of reflections on the text.
Sunday night (Book X):
What is hard to do, becomes so easy to do. Next Marathons at HBU, Charmides, Spring Plotinus.
There is something insidious about the Piraeus. You wake up distracted. There are parades and parties. There are wise old men giving proverbs. Piety can be an equal distraction. Our prayers, our gods, our religious actions often draw us away from the City Above.
The speech of Socrates that ends the dialog contains three references to Glaucon. Socrates speaks to Glaucon three times. The first (at least) is a pause . . . but Glaucon never responds. This frightens me, but it also reminds me to keep responding to the prods of Reason.
Cornford (?) cuts the short interjections by interlocutors from his translation. I have always disliked this, but now I hate it. Why? I can say: “Yes Socrates” or “No Socrates.” He has taken out one of the few ways I am sure I can participate.
You can have it all, but the Good. Is this Vanity Faire?
We can turn education into dinner theater (Naomi Geier): Socrates as diva.
in what way was Socrates with Glaucon or Glaucon with Socrates . . .
The language of the dialog moves from “Socrates with Glaucon” to “we” but (big Plato joke coming!), they don’t “we, we, we” all the way home. They are together, but the Big Bad Polemarchus keeps Socrates from going home. Glaucon is happy enough to stay.
Note: Socrates judges his experiences favorably. You could enjoy the Piraeus without soul marring? Isn’t Socrates unwise to go?
I am left, again, with this dilemma: “If God in the garden would not prevent a Fall, then who am I as ‘provost’ to tell faculty what to do?” Isn’t any rule more likely to cause harm than do good? And yet there is the good guard dog in the City in Words. Can I be a good guard dog?
We live in Vanity Faire of the Piraeus, but we can use the sun to escape. We look up and so escape. But poor Glaucon seems to hear Socrates testimony and view them as mere “flowery Platonism.” Now I am certainly apt to engage in such blather, but Socrates does not. We don’t give up, we endure. Why do we endure?
Partly, I endure because Al Geier endures. He is still here at 10:41 helping me understand the text. God help me I will do this as well best I can. This is not a thing a teacher does for pay, but for the love of the Good. God help me to emulate it and to never think that any description of the Good could be hyperbole.
The good is very good.
Unless I dishonor the Good by my trivial observations. A good Geier story by Naomi: “In a heat wave in which the young students were melting, falling asleep in the cabin, Geier sat in his T-shirt focussed. He sat with no breaks.”
Yee suggests that he cannot oppose his spiritedness and so the loss of Glaucon, if he is lost, is hard. He suggests that either he will see the truth or he will be happy. He is unsure how to handle the loss of Glaucon.
Geier: I think the whole Republic is a myth about the most beautiful thing becoming the ugliest of things by being in the Pireaus. It is a tale of the uglification of the human soul. The culprit is the Piraeus in all its manifestations, but it is a myth.
Plato is showing this truth. According to this myth, we lose Glaucon. And yet we have a choice: we can join Socrates on his upward journey. It is either that or the Piraeus. And it seems the Piraeus very seriously damages the human soul. The Piraeus destroys the relationship between Glaucon and Socrates.
This is a hard word. What teacher can stand it?
This means that even the best of students, Glaucon, can be lost. If this is true, then like Dante’s hell and one must abandon hope . . . unless one gets Virgil!
The problem seems less the body and more what we do with the body . . . or that we put the body’s pleasures ahead of the soul. The possibility of return does you now Good if you don’t act on it, but I am reminded that Glaucon is still a citizen. We belong to the City of God!
Glaucon does not see the damaged condition that he is. He is not soul aware. We cry when we come into the world, because we have come into a bad place . . . or at least a broken place. (Plato)
511d5 Everything is conditional on being persuaded by Socrates. Geier suggests that the entire set of good will depend on being persuaded by Socrates. What are they to be persuaded of?
What Socrates does with Glaucon has greater significance than what we do . . .
Is Plato writing a happy ending? (I have claimed this is true . . . but I am thinking that is wrong just now. Why? There are so many ways things can go wrong.) It might be (despite the “we”) that Glaucon is still in the Cave . . . just as physically he ends in the Piraeus. Glaucon has been silent for a long time . . . so my optimism about him based on the “we” and the naming of Glaucon.
Geier sees Glaucon as gone . . . no longer functioning as a student or as a man. His silence could mean I am not convinced Socrates.
And yet until the last speech Glaucon has been with Socrates. 614b has them in agreement, but by 615a Socrates pauses the story and speaks to Glaucon. In the pause, there is silence.
How can we see what must be seen without falling short? Can we love the Good if we do not know it?
Glaucon is a mixture of sure and not sure. It is not enough . . . he does not know what he wants. We follow the argument, but we grow weary, we grow afraid. Socrates has come down to the port city in an act of piety and then hurries home. He is willing to go . . .
He is not just using Socrates or kidnapping him. He seems to have the inexplicable notion that you can have love of wisdom and the erotic at the same time! He will have Socrates and the new sights as well.
And yet there is a deeper problem: Glaucon says “we will stay here” . . .it is irrational and incomprehensible. There is a strange irrationality that comes over Glaucon. It is a worse problem, an impulse, comes over Glaucon. By Book IX, this impulse may be ruling him. The end up lured to Pleasure Island . . . and Socrates tries to keep them from making asses of themselves.
Does he fail? Unless we know this, if you go down, you can go back up (at last Socrates can). Being in the Cave, the Piraeus, impact us. It damages us.
Saturday Afternoon (Books VI, VIII)
How could the education of the philosopher-king be unimportant? I have the horrid thought that Glaucon has failed. (Is my desire to “save” literary Glaucon a horrible fear that I am worse than he is and if he cannot be saved then there is no hope for me whatsoever? Let me leave aside this fear.
Gary Hartenburg sees progress in the “giving up” of Glaucon on pragmatic matters. The alliance with Socrates is over . . . an alliance based on an interest by Glaucon in philosophers and their education.
The CIty is not the basis for any political reform, but to change a person. This may disappoint Glaucon, but it is a great relief to me! He might see what a philosopher should do for the City, but give nothing else to politics. Plato is not suggesting political reform.
As we plunge to the bottom of the sea we discover that the soul we are looking at is the soul that is damaged. There is a comparison between Glaucon and Glaucus. Sadly, at 611 we discover that the soul is corrupt. Here on Titanic Day I am reminded that the soul is hurting. To see the ruin of the Titanic or pictures of it is no more to see Titanic than a modern psychologist can see the human soul as created.
The way Glaucon is, like Glaucus, is not the way he was before the city and the world wrecked him.
This is s hopeless vision . . . unless he can be born again.
And yet . . . and yet. . . the original soul is too precious, too divine, for this to be the end of it. We should long to see the Good, but next to I think that Plato would have us see a restored human soul.
Glaucon is less confused, Geier suggests, he just has a “versatile being.” He is what a student is . . . which does not mean the best student. What can be done?
Unless the Logos is connected to the Good, it degenerates into Logic.
At 509c Glaucon has a “very ludicrous” response to the vision of the Good. Yee points out that we often have no words to a vision of the Good, but Glaucon does have words. He does not know what to say when he sees the Good, but then he falls back. He calls is what Socrates says an exaggeration.
This is a man who should get it, but does not. But think (509b): “The good isn’t being, but is still beyond being, exceeding it in dignity and power.” We don’t know enough, and cannot know enough, to even want the Good. Can we know enough to want to want it?
Glaucon does not go even that far.And yet it is at 611a that he misses the Good and the ruin, the pain, and everything else is not as terrible as being unable to understand how good the Good really is.
Who will deliver me from the body of this death?
And now the Cave (Book VII). The same word is used as in the first line of Republic and so we are lead to ask: is this descent like that of going into the Piraeus. If so, then we are led to the startling literary idea that Glaucon was OUT of the cave and then ruined by entering the Piraeus. I think I have resisted this idea in the past by a foolish forgetting on my part: the Socrates and Glaucon at the start of the dialog are literary characters. It is not merely the cave analogy, but the analogy of going down with Glaucon to the Piraeus to see the sights.
Both are stories. One is the framing story and it is reflected (?) in the analogy of the Cave.
This is a place for dead souls. This is hades. The cave is either a tomb or a womb . . . a place to be born or to die. A seed must go into the ground and die, but it must not stay dead or it ceases to be a seed. Geier, however, challenges the notion of the seed. It is not a springing to the light, he thinks, but a going home (see Odyssey).
Or is it that he wants to go home . . . home is good, but not if home is a mere tomb. Somehow there is a real way out . . . not just a fictive way out. The way out requires a lot of education. Socrates, at least, must educate those around him just so those around him will allow him to leave!
By the end of Book VII, Socrates will move forward away from the education of the philosopher-king. The achievements of Books V, VI, VII will not continue, but be lost . . . or so says Geier. I am not sure.
Saturday afternoon (Book IV and V):
What Adeimantus suggests does move the whole conversation in a good direction. . . because he is willing to frame things. Polemarchus has attempted to hi-jack the discussion, but Adeimantus, though distracted, still has the sincerity of wanting to know. This enlarges the dialog when Polemarchus might have ended it.
The shenanigans of Polemarchus are healed by the sincerity, if juvenile, of the two lads. The details of the simulation of the City are so new . . . so remarkable . . . that it becomes real to the lads. The model city has become so interesting that it has arrested their attention.
A myth, a fiction, can become greater than the “reality” around us. It is bad that they do this, but it least provides an opening to further discourse. The questions start out being merely (and foolishly) political/practical, but it leads further on. They will not actually have common marriage, but the polis, even a fictive one, has a way of asserting its primacy over everything.
There is a critical moment when they move on from the City in words and its institutions and wonder about actualizing the City. This thought leads to the idea, so mixed in history, of philosopher kings.
The bad line of questioning has such good fruit that it makes me wonder: am I wrong that it was a bad question? Naomi Geier suggests, “Perhaps, the analogy has to be revisited.” Educating children is, after all, more important than making them, but oddly a topic less interesting to discuss.
There is a foreshadowing of the arrest of Socrates suggested at the start of Book V. They put Socrates on trial. Once again Polemarchus interrupts the argument.
He is the spirited man who has failed to become spiritual and is most interested in hearing about sex and power. It seems more than accidental that this untamed young man wants to talk about these topics rather than go forward and learn to be just. It makes sense that he would do this, and good comes of it, but it is still regrettable.
The unjust command to “keep your mouth shout” to a reasonable person is tyrannical . . . a misuse of the dialectic to control . . . and would be the worst sort of tyranny. Book V strikes me as a conspiracy of youth against the demands of reason.
Reason is a downer . . . it is keeping Polemarchus from talking about the hot topics and sticking him with mere justice. And so they make a power move and the conversation is arrested, Socrates is on trial, and all is hi-jacked.
Socrates starts the long process of bringing the argument back. It is ironic that folk like Napoleon saw themselves as the philosopher-king as that discussion and language may have been put in place to tame the very sort of tyranny that Napoleon (the Corsican Polemarchus) incarnated for France.
Polemarchus is a rat here undermining the discourse. Much of what I think is discussion is merely opining about “hot topics” and not going to the root of our injustice or seeing justice. Instead, we can embrace a cause (I think of my favorite) that seizes headlines and multiplies words (Books V-VII). In one way, the best discussion
A teacher cannot force a student to be a student. To use force is become a cop and stop being a teacher . . . mandatory education can hope that some “students” become students . . . but if I harden my heart against education, then I am in trouble as a student and nothing can help me.Jon and Megan Jackson suggest a chart of the dialog:
The young men are sure that a discussion of the erotic will tell them what they wish to know. (449b)
Republic IV 444a
Glaucon and Socrates have found the just man and the just city: we have found the truth . . . or so they think. Have they? We are not even at the half way point of the dialog!
We have a long way to go, but Glaucon has seen something. Glaucon needs Socrates, but does Socrates need Glaucon? He says he does often. In what way? ) as
They end up seeing justice “running around their feet.” It is nearby, but the image strikes me (immediately) as absurd and yet that may be another sign of foolish romanticism. We expect the Forms to be “out there,” but often there are nearby removing every excuse. We think of them as Huge and so they are, but they have a plenitude of being (perhaps?) and so are also in every crack and cranny of my life.
The argument is incomplete, but the lads and Socrates are united: an improvement if there is no other.
The rational (calculating) soul needs an ally, because it faces a erotic soul (appetitive) that is very powerful. It is hard for a spirited man to be obedient to reason.
A mistake I have made is that I must consider every idea, but I should not consider evil ideas or irrationality. It cannot do me good.
The doctor is not pushing me around, because he tells me what is best for me. Obeying reason is obeying myself . . . but I think my heart knows that reason is slave to Reason. I want to be free and not controlled by what is reasonable, because what is reasonable is external to me. The individual soul is easily lost.
When your spiritedness serves your calculating or rational part, you become as free as you can be. (Plato) A rational man will be free and just . . . and so happy as a man can be. Each man should be his own best guard, but believing this does nothing for us.
There is something unitary to be found in the common nature of the rational, the spirited, and the erotic.
The spiritual is a servant . . .to be free spirited for Plato would be to servile as a human! Reason knows better than spirit (for Plato) what to do.
To be free is to follow reason. . . we need Declaration of Dependence on Reason.
And yet Reason is not autonomous, it is taking care of the whole soul. Reason does not crush the spiritual or the erotic. Reason puts them in right order. Reason looks to the eternal, the divine, the unchanging and from that it makes the spiritual in us and the erotic in us as divine as can be while remaining still human.
Geier wonders if it is ever good to watch a horror movie. On the drive home, I wondered this myself. Why do we wish to look at the ugly site when we can avoid it? That is cannot always be avoided . . . is true. But should we bathe in it?
I cannot for the moment think why. Saint Paul certainly does not justify it. Even the Gospels do not dwell on the ugliness of the crucifixion.
The problem with spiritedness is that it cannot look out for itself, let alone the whole soul or the friend. The community is ignored by the “freeman,” but the rational person knows that the he must love his neighbor as himself to flourish.
Glaucon and Socrates ended up in this discussion because Glaucon was spirited and free . . . and the discussion is attempting to bring him into good order.
What is the appetite for? Why an erotic nature? We are animals . . .so appetite makes sense, but we are animals who want more.
The spiritual soul cannot make an alliance with the erotic soul or the soul is dragged backwards. Ideally, the spiritual allies with the rational and so gains control of the erotic.
Here is a difference in goals between Plato and some of us: do we wish to master our eros or to please it as much as possible. Which is “being myself?” Are the rational and the erotic really in the tension that Plato describes?
Plato in this section argues that “by nature” the spirited soul must serve the rational part of the soul. It may not do so in fact, but here “in nature” means the ideal for the functioning soul, not what my soul happens to be doing. Humans think . . . even if I do not.
What is natural to me is not what I wish, but what is best for a human qua human.
Bad upbringing is decisive, says Plato here, it can corrupt a man. How can I, raised on television and commercials, avoid a twisted soul more interested in eros than in the good, true, and beautiful. “I am happy” often means not total flourishing of the soul, but feeling good (especially physically). Can any person be happy in a monastery? If the spiritual is servant to the rational. . . In a horrid place? Perhaps even there, if the spiritual is servant to the rational . . . though it is hard.
Upbringing can corrupt a soul: that makes things difficult since nobody (?) has a good upbringing.
Saturday morning (Book II):
The command to investigate for himself at 368b leads to the immediate response that he has investigated from Adeimantus. This is odd: a strength and disadvantage of spiritedness.
We move to Book IV and look at the human soul at the end of seeing their city in words.
Glaucon is very eager at 434d to see and Socrates has to hold him back in this haste. The image will not work by itself, but there is a need for some “friction.” This I have seen . . . to much hasty agreement produces dullness. Iron sharpens iron. I am reminded to be less confident in myself, less sure, and more willing to listen. And yet to be “iron” that causes friction, I must opine. I must share my opinions. I must say what I really think.
The discussants of Republic must remember to keep looking at the image as an image and not as a city in which we should actually live. Republic is building a city, but not the city of the discussion, but of the discussants!
“Spiritedness” is being elevated from the earlier “thumos” to “thumoeides” . . .Plato invents a word to describe a refined spiritedness. Earlier Glaucon has raw (“smoky” or “angry”) spiritedness and now it has been elevated. Let’s find the truth! That is what we need . . . not “let’s sit here and talk about what pops into our heads.”
The nature of spiritedness is not to have a nature, but to be strong human excitement. The Piraeus is the place of spiritedness. Thrace is like spiritedness and that is the god of the Piraeus. Athens is the seat of reason. Philosophy is taking place where there can be the spirit . . . which might make some academics uncomfortable, but which is necessary.
“Form” elevates the spirit and so Plato creates the new word “spiritedness.” The passionate is now the spiritual.
If we find justice, then will it consume (The Place of the Lion)? Will it be disappointing like Oz, the not so great and the not so terrible? And yet I have to go forward, even if it kills me. If it slays me, what choice do I have but to journey? I want to see justice, but such sites are both blinding (dazzling?) and eye opening.
Why do we want conversations? It is obvious that good would come from leaving this room and doing something, but what? Socratic discourse spoils the party.
Polemarchus is not a citizen, but he is a rich heir. He likes to “hang out” and when people start leaving to go home to Athens, he wants to stop them. We observe as a group that a trivial activity is often shown to be trivial when people start to leave. Our festival with new stuff looks lame if people don’t choose to come. The Parthenon does not demand attention, it gets it, but our little festivals to our new gods needs stars and the “cool kds” to come.
I wonder about the nature of community. How far can it stretch? God’s love is boundless, but it comes with borders: justice, righteousness. How do justice and righteousness relate? They are not, I think, quite the same thing for us human beings.
“Know righteousness, know peace”
We start at 369 d. Our nearsightedness about justice means that we must think in figures. We cannot see ourselves well . . . the examined life, I should be reminded, isn’t naval gazing, looking within, but looking without. I hope to see Justice in the cosmos or in the Divine and so then try to reflect it. Am I just? Are my desires just?
Surely not in themselves!
But (says Dr. Geier), “Houston, we have a problem.” Suppose the city is not a good representation of the individual soul? Why do they have such faith that their project will work?
I think that conversation might build not much of a city, it will only be in words, but draw out from us an image formed from us and so show us who we are. Philosophy, or this kind of discourse, then would allow a “bigger image” of justice.
But this only true, if there is any justice in us and that seems dubious.
It does seem that we want justice, but accumulating our desire will not help us anymore than hanging out with many hungry people will produce food!
If there is no dim vision of justice in us, then we are likely only to accumulate misery and failure. That may not be the worst image of most philosophical discussion. Of course, there could be a loving God whose image in us saves us . . . or whose intervention saves us, but this does not always seem to happen. We cannot get better by mere imitation if we lack the power.
It does seem hopeful to sit in a community (the bigger the better!) than sitting alone with a book. Is there anything more dangerous than sitting alone with a book or in an utterly enclosed community?
Friday night (Republic I, II):
10:30- We stop and ponder this question: “How does the city in Speech come into being?”
10:15- Odd fact: Going to the Piraeus, the port city, is like going to the port of Houston and turning your back on the museum district, the churches, and the University.
And yet if I must find someone like Socrates or like Glaucon to have a discussion.
Should we get up as a class and go to the bus station, the airport, the port? Should we go the house of the strangers? Do I want to follow the Logos enough to go anywhere?
Look around. Does anyone expect a Republic discussion here? Not the leaders of the City of Houston certainly, but here we are here. This is home, because this is where the Logos rules.
9;52- Glaucon needs Socrates and Socrates needs Glaucon. Why? It is the case, the text demands I believe it. Why must this dialog take place with Glaucon?
Alcibiades brings “terror in his wake.” He is a terrible in ways Glaucon is not . . . and yet even Glaucon cannot clearly be saved from his injustice.
Is there hope for us?
We are reminded, dragged back by the text to Book I, and wonder: “Why is this a story told the next day?” Is Glaucon there the next day when this tale is told?
9:43- Professor H asks (by Twitter): Rings, caves, justice . . . “what does it all mean?”
I think reading this dialog in community is an attempt at experiencing justice.
Professor Markos is a passionate discussion, but willing to listen. That is a rare attribute in a brilliant man.
Now Professor Markos forces me to admit that I do things (in part) for such miserable reasons (though spirited) as “seeing the Grail” or other romantic things. And so now I must challenge myself lest I be an up-scale Twilight person. Though even that might be to give myself too much credit.
How many lounge lizards think they are romantics? We must (I must at least) avoid a kind of intellectual romanticism. Justice. Not feeling “justly.”
9:22- On the Courage of Glaucon
In all of Book I, Glaucon has not said much, but now he speaks a great deal. He shows “characteristic courage.”
In Book I they are compelled by force, but in Book II Glaucon asks for true not just intellectual bullying. Socrates has had to confront (in Book I) a bestial man, Thrasymachus, who worships power. Socrates has muscled him, but not with reason.
Glaucon is interested in justice.
A discussant, Shane, stops us and shows us the danger of mistaking our desires. Everybody wants justice, but what if we misunderstand what justice is? Our “justice” may be monstrous and our passion for our created “justice” would allow awful tyranny.
God help me.
9:18- Absurd example: in Star Trek VI (?), Spock says to his friend Captain Kirk (roughly) “have we grown so old, that we have outlived our usefulness?” Cephalus has. He has living, but scarcely. The city cannot thrive with him in charge, but it cannot remove. What miracle causes him to leave? Oddly, his piety, as shallow as it is, helps his city. It causes him to to the very thing the community needs . . . he leaves voluntarily.
9:09- Cephalus is the “head” of house (as his name suggests.) He is a religious head and he must be removed . . . but somehow without revolution. Plato does not make the mistake of thinking that revolution or patricide could improve the situation.
Cephalus is not a fool and he is a good man, but he terrifically limited. He may feel about philosophy the way he feels about sex: glad it over for him. Why are people my edge tempted to stop thinking? to stop growing?
Cephalus is inadequate as the head of things, because he is fond of wisdom, but more fond of personal safety in the afterlife. If he is the head, then we don’t have much. He is the being governed by Conventional Wisdom: whatever is trending in the minds of those our culture think successful . . .
(Lest I grow too complacent: there is danger in a sub-culture of becoming just as stagnent: the “head” of my little subculture.)
God help me: may it never be the case that leaving allows my students, family, or friends to start talking.
8:50- Polemarchus introduces a new home. They had been going to the citadel and now they are going to a new home. The fact that the port city is where it happens will change the discussion. What do you say to a man who wants to be in a place “just because that is where it is at?”
There is always the temptation to stay where things are new and shiny. He finds the phrase “that will be new” totally appealing. That is a mistake. When did “new” lead inexorably to “improved?”
8:33– There exists a deep spiritedness at the heart of human nature. Glaucon uses it and stops A political society is starting on an impulse: first of Socrates to go to see the sights and now in Glaucon stopping them.
Socrates is not the guru, because whatever rationality may have existed it overridden by the passion of Glaucon.
Polemarchus is a bully. Glaucon is compliant and goes along with Polemarchus, leaving Socrates no choice. What does a lover of wisdom do in a place where force rules? The war lord or godfather of the Piraeus uses force.
I feel we are often in both positions. If I am not careful even my opinions will become tyranny to myself or others. Am I following the Logos or my passions?
The world, the flesh and the devil sometimes motivate us . . . and Geier points us to “abandon hope” (Dante Canto III (?) ). The trip to the Piraeus does not seem to offer much hope for loving wisdom. We are going to see parties and practice a superficial piety.
If the search for Wisdom is the search for God, a false piety keeps up from that search. We worship our idols, gods in our image, that are entertaining, but never challenge our passions.
A morality that never challenges the rules of the city is a false morality.
8::00 forward– Socrates begins with this line “I went down, yesterday, in the Piraeus, with Glaucon . . . ”
Socrates goes down from the citadel to the port city. The citadel has become “home” to Socrates (astu) and yet he is not allowed to “go home.” He is forced to return. To see Socrates outside of Athens is to see him in an odd place . . . Abraham Lincoln did not seem like himself until he came to the White House. Isn’t Socrates a man of the citadel? May be not, because in this consumate dialog he is not there.
7:30- We pray and ask Jesus, the Divine Logos, to guide us to all Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
Why, suddenly, does Glaucon suddenly want to stay? The reasons seem insufficient. There is a spectacle, there is his brother, but his statement seems very empatic 327b. His reason for staying away from home does not seem well thought.
There may be no reason here at all beyond impulse. How much do I do because of impulse? Am I as governed by reason as I think?
A marathon is a long race and at the end we will announce victory. It is a concentrated practice of the dialectic: there is no teacher.
As a result, there are ten things to keep in mind-
1. Those of us who are faculty member need to let our own views go, even about Plato. Look at the text in a new way. Follow the argument where it is leading. Try to avoid (I say to myself) defending pet theories.
2. If you are a member of the HBU community, respect the diversity of ideas in the room, but recall that we are here to learn from Plato. Plato may (or may not!) end up being wrong on a particular issues, but let’s not bog down on that issue. Let’s hear from the text.
3. A big part of a Marathon experience is becoming a community. Come to as much as you can. Most will miss some time, but try to minimize that time. The more you come, the more you will get. Safe to safe a mere three hours will get you little, six more, but then sometime at the edge of weariness you will see good things.
4. There is no grade, no test, no need to impress anybody.
5. Respect the time of others. If Dr. Geier isn’t going to lecture (and he will not), then we should not. Be tentative about offering much more than a very few minutes of thought. Prod yourself.
6. Don’t be afraid to take breaks. The discussion may continue, but a quick walk in the chill (!) Houston air may clear your mind.
7. Do be willing to laugh. Plato is so serious that it is absurd that we would think we would “get” his great work. Smile at yourself.
8. Challenge everything you believe. I often use a Marathon to try out ideas . . . that doesn’t mean I will come to hold them. The Marathon in a safe space for open dialog.
9. Everyone is equal in the room as far as discussion. Dr. Geier is our leader, but not our tyrant! Except for mundane items like schedule, building use, or food . . . the discussion is amongst peers!
10. Do have fun . . . this is jolly, not grim.