Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FLG's Is Confused

FLG's contention is:
Plato's Republic and Rousseau's Emile are the same book, but told from different vantage points.

Then Withywindle starts in with charges of Straussianism, which MSI seconds:
I agree with the charge of extreme straussianism here--philosophizing as activity always generates the same ideas, all great books say the same thing, etc. So why ever read more than one? To learn historical minutia about the various milieus of European society?

Uh, people. I said the two books are the same, but from different perspectives. And I did say that Rousseau might as well be Plato popped into the French enlightenment. I'm not quite sure how this went to ALL philosophers are the same and ALL their books are the same. I believe there's a fallacy of composition occurring here.


Miss Self-Important said...

I was responding to the following exchange:
"don't nearly all philosophers who recoil from the world as they find it and seek to imagine/construct some very different world where men can be free, or stripped of their illusions, or conformed to some less base state, etc. have quite a lot in common?"

Sure, but they do it in unique ways. I mean, Medieval barbers and modern doctors share common goals, but aren't the same.

If all philosophers have in common the same imaginings but express them in different ways, I still don't see the value of reading more than one. Does the means of expression change the argument? Why bother with Emile if the Republic already contains it?

FLG said...

"hy bother with Emile if the Republic already contains it?"

Blind men and an elephant

Withywindle said...

Another way to put this is: by assuming they are all the same - all different parts of an element -- you are also shutting yourself off from the possibility that Rousseau is really a zebra. This makes me realize: Strauss dislikes historicists, for closing themselves off from an unmediated approach to the text. But the all--philosophy-is-the-same is also closing yourself off. Straussian reading really shouldn't end up in uniformity across time. This is centrally a critique of Straussians, although consider yourself tangentially nicked.

MSI: Because Plato never uses the expression "bork bork bork," and Rousseau does.

FLG said...

I'm just assuming that Plato and Rousseau are talking about the elephant. Other people could be talking about zebras.

I really don't understand why it is so problematic for two philosophers to be the same. There's no jump from 2 to all.

Miss Self-Important said...

Well, but we already have at least four books modeled on or inspired by the Republic (not to mention all the scifi lit)--Cicero's De Republica, the City of God, Utopia, and Emile. And Aristotle wrote dialogues, though these are lost. Clearly those must have taken a great deal from Plato. Why not skip the derivatives and deal only with the original unless either each derivative is doing something different with the template or you have an interest in historical shifts in the rhetorical presentation of the same ideas?

It's still not yet clear to me what the similarity between Plato and Rousseau was that is distinct from things discussed by other philosophers: human being vs citizen? The best education? The best city? The place of philosophy? All of these things have been discussed by nearly every great thinker and all of them have recognized the tension between the political and the philosophical. It's not even clear to me that Plato and Rousseau agreed on the answers--Plato saw much more hope I think for philosophy to remain within the city even if it would never be harmonious with the city's ends and always pose a serious potential threat. Rousseau saw society as subsuming the politics of the city, celebrating a degraded kind of philosophy, and rendering it less habitable for true philosophy (whatever that is, but presumably whatever Rousseau thought he was doing). The education of Emile creates neither a man for politics nor a man for society, and only very contingently a man for himself. Politics in Rousseau is a mostly lost cause--a preserve of idealistic fools and conniving tyrants (unless you think the Social Contract is intended as a sincere template for political life). In Plato, it's not the highest life, but neither is it the worst, since there remains a possibility for practical wisdom in politics even where perfect philosophical justice can't be instantiated.

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