Plato’s not so bad
I read the Euthyphro last night and was pleasantly surprised. I’d read a few dialogues before but I was undoubtedly not ready for them and I didn’t get much out of it. But last night Plato came alive for me. The most shocking thing about them was how funny the Euthyphro is, I mean laugh out loud funny. The character of Euthyphro is priceless “why they even mock me as if I were crazy”. All through the dialogue I kept wondering if Euthyphro would come to the realization of what a dolt he was and near the end he must have realized that self-realization was perilously close but he chose to retain his comfortable illusions and beat a hasty retreat.
In keeping with the Platonic theme I loaded some teaching company lectures by Michael Sugrue on the Platonic dialogues onto my mp3 players and listened to them on my long run this afternoon. Sugrue’s lectures are without doubt the best I have ever heard on Plato. He’s also very funny in his own right and his commentary on the half-wits and nit-wits in the Euthydemus had me chuckling while I ran.
Sugrue also gave me a deeper appreciation of Socrates. I’d always harbored the suspicion that Socrates, as smart as he was, was in reality a bit of a horse’s ass. As I’ve learned more about Socrates this semester I realize that the social situation in Athens and the rise of the Sophists meant that Socrates really was providing a service to his fellow citizens by showing up knuckleheads like Euthydemus and Dionysodorus. The tragic part was, Sugrue points out, the influence of Sophists such as Gorgias was the real corrupter of the Athenians not Socrates. Just how intellectually corrupted the Athenians were was pointed out to good effect by Sugrue when he noted how dumb the Athenians were when they stood around cheering the imbecilities of the nit-wit Dionysodorus.
All this has, I think, some important ramifications today where the Sophists have been resurrected and now populate our schools and our news media, not to mention the internet. The only real antidote to this is a return to classical education.