Pleasure and the Intellect

– This is very preliminary. I have no idea what Benardete means by this passage; I’m just toying with potential implications. –

Background Quotes from the passage I’m puzzling over:

Clineas [who believes the world is a perpetual state of war] implied that the city was the locus of self-alienation and split man permanently against himself [for man must either be obedient to the city for the sake of fighting other enemies, or follow his inner urge to dominate all]….

There would be, then, a better self and a worse self, and the worse self would be analogous to the demos and the better comparable to the rule of the wise… The victory of the worse self would seem to mean the defeat of reason by pleasure, and rather than such a victory pointing to cowardice it would imply that the loss of moderation or of self-control is the worst and most disgraceful of defeats. On the level of the self, sophrosune [roughly: moderation, but notice “soph” in there, i.e. sophia, philosophia] is at issue, on the level of the city the willingness to be killed: Clinias later admits that to succumb to pleasures is worse than to succumb to pains.

The key statement:

Man’s alienation from the city does not have the same ground as man’s enmity to himself. To resist giving up one’s own life for the sake of the city is not the same as to be a slave to pleasure. The difference can be likened to that between Socrates’ daimonion, which kept him from politics and saved his life, and Socrates’ obedience to the oracle from Apollo, which made him disregard all risks and see himself as another Achilles.

– all italicized text is from Seth Benardete, Plato’s Laws: The Discovery of Being, pgs. 12-3

Benardete is always a difficult read; I have a ton of illegible notes from the time I read his essay on the Symposium, wondering why he chose to say half the things he did. What is Benardete’s point in separating cowardice from pleasure? I think a fairer argument, regarding the text of the Laws itself, would assert that 1) Clineas likes pleasure – he does not see tyranny as being wrong in any way, and 2) cowardice and pleasure absolutely go together; the state of fear that sets the world in motion is seeking rest, perhaps a perpetual rest.

Credit Benardete for not going the easy route of #2: there actually is no Platonic support for that position. Clineas and Megillus are scared of drinking parties [symposia] because of the boldness that comes forth in using liquor (of course, they don’t really know that being scared of boldness is one ofthe driving force behind their characters). While Clineas’ character can be defined by statements 1 & 2 above, the Platonic teaching is not going that direction at all, as Clineas’ statements, brought forth by the Stranger, are alluding to something entirely different.

An adequate response to the world being a state of fear where we perpetually war has to demonstrate that man can be something better. Hence, man has to be able to take pleasure in something that doesn’t automatically destroy society. Socrates doesn’t risk his life for the city in the regular way. His impetus is from the god, Apollo. He seeks the good at all costs, presumably because there is pleasure in the good. But if we accept this schema, where pleasure and the good are tied, then pleasure is not necessarily tied to cowardice.

Which means, for us, that our materialist decadence is a funny thing – there have to be warped principles behind the decadence, probably stuff like “capitalism will make the world democratic and peaceful,” etc., which distort our seeking the good, and thus distort what we take pleasure in. In truth, we don’t take pleasure in having tons of stuff. We actually take pleasure in being Americans, and having a faith in the world that sometimes might be misplaced. It isn’t clear that Pakistan or India or China or Saudi Arabia deserve our faith in them, even as we back each of them, and wish them well. True pleasure might seek to reground exactly why we should be proud of being Americans, and how we should view the rest of the world.

But you won’t hear that sort of rhetoric by anyone in an election soon, I guarantee it.

An Attempted NFL Prediction.

I’m a Chargers fan, so I hate saying this, but I think Kansas City might be for real.

Here’s the reasoning – the defense is inconsistent, just like the whole team, but unlike previous years, it has the ability to actually force a three-and-out.

That’s a huge improvement. Right now, the Colts are going through what KC has been in previous years, and it’s not pretty.

The offense is in severe decline. Tony Gonzalez is old. But the offensive line has been consistently good, Huard isn’t a bad QB, Green is coming back, Kennison is an excellent receiver, and Larry Johnson is an animal.

The thing about this team that makes me think they’re for real is that they present major matchup problems for any team facing them. They beat SD last week by standing firm against the pash rush – absolutely the most fearsome pass rush in the league – and going bombs away against the secondary. They can implement any game plan they wish.

The only obstacle to them doing well is Herm Edwards. He has to pick the right strategy per opponent. He’s got a football team that has all the pieces to take opponents apart, if the strategy is good. The team itself is not a dominating team, and does not have a dominating element like Denver’s linebacking corps or soon-to-be MVP Donovan McNabb.

What they have is the ability to be competitive on a scale I hadn’t thought possible before, and can easily be underestimated. Even with a loss this week, they would have a game against the Rams, Dolphins, Browns, and 2 against the Raiders. If they can steal another win, that’s 9 wins; 2 more wins, 10 wins.

– Watch as they probably lose this game this week due to some weakness I hadn’t picked up on just now, and then blow the rest of the schedule. –

A Defense of the President?

Note: The Carnival of Cinema and the Carnival of the Vanities were kind enough to feature some posts of mine, so I’m linking to them here.

I think I might be the one person that likes W.

I’m not a fan of this “let’s spend tons of money” approach he has, but I understand the rationale: the only way to change the culture of gov’t is bureaucratic turnover. One has to show that conservative measures and ideas work, and that means spending a lot of money in order to reorient the bureaucratic machinery that already exists to fulfill very different purposes.

I’m also not a huge fan of this “the only good gov’t is democracy” rhetoric, which ignores that key allies in the War on Terror – like Jordan – aren’t exactly democratic. But I understand that he says this stuff without meaning badly for those regimes, and that a liberal would have to be openly hypocritical, not just mistaken, if he asserted the same.

I wonder about all these polls that show Iraq fatigue, and the GOP poised to lose nearly every Senate and House race this November there is. My own feeling is that we’re just a bunch of big babies. We want a country to rebuild itself over night, and we have a ton of conspiracy theory and a lot of lousy “ideas” for restoring order where there is none to stand in place of “endurance” and “staying the course.” Our anger at Mr. Bush is not that we’re losing in Iraq, it’s that we have a foreign policy in the first place, I suspect.

Against this post of mine a million articles and arguments can be cited, many of which I’m familiar with. What criteria do they need to meet, do you think, in order for them to not just be ranting for the sake of saying “war is bad” or “the Bush administration is evil?” What constitutes legitimate criticism of the ruling party, and how is it possible for a rabid, foaming at the mouth populace to level that criticism without being so arrogant it assumes it knows the answers before the questions are even asked?

How to Kill Time

Advanced Global Personality Test Results

Extraversion |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Stability |||||| 26%
Orderliness |||||||||| 33%
Accommodation |||||| 23%
Interdependence |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||| 70%
Mystical |||||||||||| 43%
Artistic |||||||||||||||| 70%
Religious |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Hedonism |||||||||||| 50%
Materialism |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Narcissism |||||||||||| 43%
Adventurousness |||||| 30%
Work ethic |||||||||| 36%
Self absorbed |||||||||||||||| 63%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||| 50%
Need to dominate |||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Romantic |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Avoidant |||||| 23%
Anti-authority |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Wealth |||||||||||||||| 63%
Dependency |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Change averse |||||||||||| 50%
Cautiousness |||| 16%
Individuality |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Sexuality |||||||||||| 50%
Peter pan complex |||||||||||| 50%
Physical security |||||||||||||| 56%
Physical Fitness |||||||||||||||| 64%
Histrionic |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Paranoia |||||| 30%
Vanity |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||||||||||| 83%
Female cliche |||||||||||||| 56%

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The “trait snapshot” is gold:

craves attention, messy, open, rash, irritable, likes large parties, low self control, weird, fragile, does not like to be alone, emotionally sensitive, worrying, depressed, heart over mind, does not respect authority, dependent, not rule conscious, not good at saving money, more interested in relationships than intellectual pursuits, likes to fit in, very social, frequently second guesses self, phobic, suspicious, not careful, outgoing, vain, compassionate, aggressive, likes to make fun, hates to lose

An Impassioned Beauty Speaks

I sat alone
the only one in the audience
She stood alone
the only one in the room

He, next to me, about to cry,
She, next to me, with wild eyes,
I, inside me, staring around,
until my eyes set on the ground,
itself unmoved.

I noticed her head, the parted lips,
the nervous twitching of the hips,
that sometime whisper, sometime shout
from a usually soft voice, seeking –

Seeking what? Clout? Out?
Perhaps just wanting to spout?
An incoherent stream of consciousness,
words falling as if in a rainstorm,
a truly babbling brook.
No book can help me understand this.

Was she reaching out to me?
Were we naked, under a tree,
My bare back scratched slightly by the bark,
her bare arms, uncoiling like a snake towards me?

Oh, if only I could see!
But I was alone
the only one in the audience

Note: An old poem of mine. From September 2002.