I am proud to announce that my Master’s Essay (thesis equivalent) for my graduate work at St. John’s College is complete. It is called “How Ought We to Live?: Philosophy and Its Challengers In Book I of Plato’s Republic.” I wrote it not only with an academic audience in mind, but with friends, family, and a general educated audience, too, for whom I hope I can make Plato appear as he is: permanently relevant and always exciting. Hopefully, this essay, the longest I have written, will demonstrate why I have been so intoxicated by Socrates over the past year!
Read the full essay by clicking here; I have chosen to host the paper at academia.edu.
Here is an excerpt:
Thrasymachus continues with his display and says that he has a definition of justice that is not any of the answers he prohibited – but he before telling the group what it is, he revives the question of that which is ‘owed and fitting’; particularly, he wants to know what penalty Socrates will suffer upon having his ignorance exposed.
Socrates matter-of-factly claims the suffering that is fitting for an ignorant man is simply to learn from one who knows. Thrasymachus feigns amusement, but states bluntly that what he really wants is a physical token representing his intellectual superiority: money. Socrates nonchalantly promises to pay him when he gets any, but Glaucon, ready for the conversation to move past Thrasymachus’ theatrics, tells him that he and Socrates’ other friends will pay on his behalf.
Socrates’ linking learning and suffering might first be taken to be ironic, but the image of education presented in the Republic reflects a grueling, often tortuous process. Philosophic education demands that we radically and unsparingly examine and re-examine our most cherished beliefs – even, perhaps especially, those ones we have learned to love most, and which constitute the most fundamental principles that guide our daily lives. In the Allegory of the Cave, those who leave the shadows behind do not do so with joy; they are “dragged there by force.” (516A) The man confronted with his ignorance “suffers pain” from being freed from his former captivity. (515D) Education requires us to recognize that we cannot necessarily trust tradition, the law, our parents, the poets, or even our own common sense to discern the truth about the most important questions. It is doubtful that anyone could recognize this without suffering.