Plato's Republic with Pierre Grimes

by: New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove

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[Music] thinking aloud conversations on the leading edge of knowledge and discovery with psychologist Jeffrey Mishlove hello and welcome I'm Jeffrey Mishlove today we're going to explore plato's great classic the Republic with me is dr. Pierre Grimes a specialist in classical philosophy the founder of the American Philosophical practitioners Association founder of the noetic Society and author of a number of books including philosophical midwifery also unblocking which is a popular version of philosophical midwifery and it is also the basis of a computer program he wrote called - artemis which is a an attempt to put the principles of philosophical midwifery into practice some of his other titles include the pocket pierre five dialogues and a forthcoming book on Jesus and Socrates a dialogue in heaven welcome Pierre pleasure it's a pleasure to be with you once again and to explore Plato's Republic is one of the great classics and in the Western Canon I think it would be included in everybody's list of the world's great literary works and I think most people assume as I did that Plato's Republic is primarily a book about a kind of utopian political system you have a different perspective yes you see then book to a Plato's Republic he spends a good part of book two exploring the idea of justice and injustice and he says you know it is so difficult to understand justice and injustice because it's that's a small it's and it's in man and what we need is a larger model he said let's make an analogy with the stage so that we can see justice and injustice in the state for its analogy to the soul mm-hmm so the entire book of the Republic is an analogy the soul is to justice as the state is to justice and therefore it's really a deep philosophical work and it's only secondarily a political work as a matter of fact at the end of book 9 Socrates is being asked by Glaucon Glaucon gong sister Socrates do you think this will ever come about and Socrates is no it never come about not only that it doesn't matter whether it ever will come to be or not it's only to be it's only designed to be as it were a model in the heavens for us to contemplate that's its true purpose mm-hmm so therefore it is secondary it is a political model but it repudiated matter of fact has no interest in whether it would or would not exist in reality well the analogy between the human soul and the state yes is is interesting you know many years ago I interviewed Marvin Minsky the great specialist and artificial intelligence and if I recall correctly he had just written a book called mind as society yes and there's a lot of thinking these days that that the human mind is analogous to a society in the sense that it's pluralistic they're competing voices within the human mind competing motives competing impulses and all striving for some kind of spotlight in the center of consciousness Plato seems to be suggesting if I understand it that that role that central role belongs to what he called the philosopher king that's true that's true you know what's interesting about Plato and it's and especially about the Republic but you can see it most clearly and other dialogues like the Parmenides translators are not translating the word self that exists in Greek it appears in over 400 times in the Parmenides and it's never translated as the self one would look at the the idea of the Republic in a different way if it were translated and made visible that is the whole dialogue is about the nature of the self you know I saw your recent essay on that very point I think you titled it the betrayal of philosophy yes yes that that for the whole field of philosophy for generations and for centuries to be commenting on Plato without understanding the his use of such a concept as the self is fundamental uh-huh nothing more fundamental yeah and it certainly suggests a terrible gap in our thinking you know we're more than our thinking and maybe it's it's it's a weakness in our soul well we see we're influenced our education is influenced by people who were essentially so obsessed David um Berkeley Immanuel Kant define that term home for our viewers who may not understand what a solipsistic the assumption that everything we experience we really experience inside in our own mind and therefore we never encounter a reality it is all in our mind of therefore all everything is subjective yeah see when David Hume announced that as a central thesis and as you his work on human understanding he recognizes the weakness in his system he even describes it he says by the way I don't want you to ask one question do not ask is there any way to determine whether there's any resemblance between what I experienced in my mind in the external world he said you can't answer that well if you can't answer it that means sir you have a very foolish system you're locked into yourself and you have no reality yeah but that's David you well i but the whole scientific endeavor is about reconciling what is real objective measurable empirical well you see that's the effort of Dura that is central to europe the empirical method absolutely right the only trouble with that does it is it in principle solipsistic because the work we're now talking about the republic yes is that there is a reality it is experiential one can encounter it one can encounter and experience a what we sometimes called enlightenment he talked about two kinds of enlightenment in the Republic these calls being the most brilliant light of being that's what he calls being that's the divine lumination you know divine illumination that's called the idea of the good because the word idea is a Greek word that's a Greek words will they idea idea idea idea where does it mean to behold if you behold the good that's an experience yes it's not the good because the good is beyond all experience and therefore Plato's Republic is to try to push the relationship between these two fundamental highest terms most brilliant light a being and their good well if I understand Plato one one of the important primary concepts is is the notion that there is this platonic world a world of perfect forms a world of perfect truth goodness and beauty hmm to which we can never attain but to which we should always strive no no okay let's play you don't mind yes the idea that Plato has the notion of forms as a result of a translation of joeys Javed translates the word idea as forms and therefore everybody's talking about Plato's forums yeah no no no no in the experience of divine illumination different people can experience and say that is the most beautiful thing that's beauty in itself others can see the same experience and say all I detect in that experience mind itself knowing itself Plato in the symposium talks about Beauty itself and he says that's reality by the way in the Greek it's truth mm-hmm right that's a moment where you see what is true or the truth so all of these so-called ideas of forms are nothing other than what can be inferred from that experience beauty justice goodness truth ultimate reality there are all just different aspects and ways they're talking about divine illumination which is is is and has been experienced by many people in our age since LSD came along let me ask you this though I want to push you a little because my understanding is first of all that mathematicians and geometries in particular favor Plato and and that if I recall correctly and the gates to Plato's Academy it was inscribed something to the effect of lettin none enter who don't understand geometry yes the geometry was important to Plato because in sight it is important to philosophy there is no study of geometry that is not dependent upon insight when you get the final solution to any proposition the QED that's a moment of insight brought about by a rational understanding starts with definitions you make divisions you then have a demonstration then you make an analysis that's the conclusion it's a completely rational system but it ends always with insight the cultivation of insight is by geometry ok now in the Republic there's the famous allegory of the cave oh great which is is really I think it's kind of central mm-hmm perhaps you could elaborate on it well if you work on the assumption that Plato central to Plato's thought it certainly it is true in other dialogues like the time is analogy is central mean analogy is central for terminologies are central therefore the question is - what is the allegory a cave analogous to so now we have to ask is it possible to line up all of the terms and the allegory of the cave and find their equivalents or their analogues now I think some of our viewers may not be familiar with that allegory so could you summarize it briefly yes it comes out of analogy the analogy is as the Sun is to its light so the good is to divine luminosity hongcun has a great deal of trouble with this and he wants to understand it Socrates says you're not going to understand it unless I talk to you about four ideas image thinking belief understanding and knowing and he shows in his analysis sometimes called the divided line and for each of those each one has its own special object object of study and then Cochran says God having trouble with that since Socrates says that's because you don't understand analogies go home and do your work but let me show you what it applies to that's the allegory of the cave mm-hmm right down the yeren cave starts with a great opening why is there a big opening in the cave as one of the central questions see for every idea and this story of the allegory of the cave there should be some reason why it exists so on the allegory of the cave we find people that are chained they've been chained there their whole lives even their neck has changed so they cannot turn left or right but they only can focus on the wall of the cave behind them at a distance which of course they can never see since they cannot turn their heads about it's a fire and it throws the light out and that as a result of that fire between the fire and the people watching the wall of the cave there's a high parapet and among which men walk back and forth carrying objects on their head and they talk to one another and that produces the echoes which the men and the cave think are the other shadows of the walls speaking and the objects on their head cast figures on the wall of the cave and they take that to be reality that their reality and Socrates says you know you have to have someone to go down to the cave and drag that person up free him of these chains and force him to turn around and look at what is going on so he can see that the fire is producing the shadows and the voices that the these couriers of these figures are saying are the ecers that you take to be reality he said you have to stand this man up and force him to see this you know they'll rush back they're afraid they'll rush back they don't want to believe that that's the truth so you have to drag them up the steep ascent into the upper world once in the upper world there's in the real world and the first episode is a dark night where he can then see through this through moonlight and the stars the objects and then later than he then is able to see the Sun in its true place and therefore he can then experience the nature of reality mm-hmm now for each one of these things there should be something that it is similar yep right same thing is Jesus in the in the parables every parable should have its parallel because every powerful should be reduced to an allegory and an allegory is in essence an analogy so it means that the people who are listening if they only can understand what these parables represent they have the meaning and they walk away with understanding yeah the only trouble is and for Jesus the key terms to the terms are kept secret and he only saw he only tells those to his inner circle but in an analogy and Plato every term is fixed in every term can be found as in its parallel so that it can be completely understood so now the question of the allegory of the cave is what did the voice why does he have the voices and why does he have the carriers carrying the objects on their head yeah well in order to understand that you have to find the language he uses to describe those images and find them elsewhere in the text to find their proper analogous product mm-hmm he says you know what he said we must take a look at the fact that there are certain types have been and for each type of man there's a political Constitution therefore there's democracy because the Democratic man there's cheering Ebers their tyrannical man there are allegory because they're I look Oracle meant right and and they're our stock receipt there are the aristocratic men they said by the way you have to understand that they are the products of families the dynamics of the family produces these people mm-hmm by the way that's a path Ilocos the path of logos we better define them for the first time and it's crucial to your own philosophy their question in the per day and the explanation and Plato's Republic as he understands thoroughly that the family produces their own logos their own way of being and that and each family demands a loyalty to it but he never has the origin to it because he didn't understand Homer's Iliad but the each one of those family constellations are like those people walking back and forth with objects on their head they represent what the teachings are from each of these families and therefore each of these carriers they're the same number of people carrying as there are types of governments and they showed throw the shadows on the walls of the cave which men take to be real they hear these men talking and that's what they take to be real those voices are the voices that represent the teach English so the family teachings or one might say even the tribal teachings are like a burden heavy powerful loyalty is demanded mm-hmm yes yes an exile even death might be the price of violating that that's loyalty now the part of the ellegua of the cave that has always fascinated me is when the person returns back yeah okay yeah go ahead well he comes back to let everybody know about you know there's a real reality outside and it's light and manure and he is shunned yes he says see the great thing about it he said what is he gained he gained he has the ability now to see better than a thousand I say because he knows what the beliefs are and what they are beliefs of that's the key no right it's not enough to know that you believe something what do they represent and how did you come to accept them and that's what the man coming back down the Cape knows and therefore he knows exactly what the images are and what they represent by the way that's dangerous for him sometimes because the people might get upset but that kind of knowing and put him to death which is what happened you see Plato is a Plato's Republic has one feature which is extremely important that is the whole thing is a structured analogy from beginning to end even for the very beginning the opening part book1 why does why Socrates going down to the Pyrates who's going with Glaucon why why is there that episode because when he goes down to the to the pireas he's going to watch a religious celebration and he's on his way back and he's held and forced to come to stay in the is oh oh that was an injustice yeah so the very first page of the Republic represents a model for the entire Republic mm-hmm because then Socrates then is forced to go to the house of cephalus which happens to be the parents of the of that we could call them the kidnappers hmm and he then engages them in dialogue for the rest of the night and that allows them to free him and he goes back to Athens I see that's the Republic so when you refer to Piraeus it's the port city adjacent to a - yes - the allegory of the cave that's okay but tell me now more about the role of the philosopher king well in the ninth book which very is a very important part he says the only way you can get knowledge of yourself is through dreams because through dreams you're able to get insights into your president your past and your future only there he talks about the need for insights through dreams Plato will often in every dialogue he often takes a central idea and mentions it once doesn't elaborate on it but it plays a key role within the work itself so therefore in the Republic here's this quest for deep understanding where do you get it and how do you get it it's through dreams and that's in the ninth book in one paragraph oh is that remarkable it is it's very remarkable but are you saying that the the these dream Watchers are the philosopher king yes okay that's the only way you can get personal information but you see what's interesting about Greek culture is the role of Dreams mm-hmm and for a long time I've been puzzled why people don't talk about the role of dreams in greek culture now there's one works Iran has others in the second century and he was a playtest and he knew the role of dreams and he said you know I don't like talking about dreams everybody knows about dreams but I'm going to talk about them it's not interesting everybody knows about dreams but no one talks about but in the ancient world I I'm under the impression that dreams were regarded practically as equivalent to waking experience oh yes no physician ever treated a patient without first studying their drainage mm-hmm that was their method of a diagnosis a key part of diagnosis absolutely and now one other one of the interesting about plays Republic is that you have to do the weaving to get to the meaning mm-hm like the all through the Platonic world and platonic literature's there's the struggle between pleasure and pain what's the prominence man is causing pleasures that's the problem and he tries to escape escape pain yep and man's real problem is that he gets caught up in pleasures and that's ruinous and it ruins the soul no when he talks about the four virtues and he talks about temperance that's afraid that's a word what's Cure is because it presupposes this other word courage and that's one of the key virtues what does he mean by courage he says you know courage is being able to know what is most dangerous to the soul and what is not that's courage is it because unless you know that how can you live your life but that's not enough he says you know what he said both gods and men hate one thing to have a false a false idea of the nature of reality and your soul mmm he said that's the worst thing of all there for pleasure the problem with pleasure is that in pleasure you may see that as a reality and assume that is your highest reality and therefore you will become addicted to your pleasure there are even philosophies based on exactly that but he's now saying you see therefore the the antidote is Kuragin therefore you should be able to know the nature of reality and hold to the nature of reality and any pleasure you experience which is the same thing in the back of Aikido and I know you're also a Buddhist scholar yes you get that idea in Buddhism as well don't you yes but it never is just clear as it is in play well once again Pierre Grimes this is has been a delight and a very illuminating time I love these conversations my pleasure I assure you doubly over thank you for being with me my pleasure and thank you for being with us [Music]




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Pierre Grimes, PhD, is a specialist in classical Greek philosophy. He is the founder of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. He is also founder of the Noetic Society in the Los Angeles area. He is author of Philosophical Midwifery: A New Paradigm for Understanding Human Problems, Socrates and Jesus: A Dialogue in Heaven, and Unblocking: Removing Blocks to Understanding. He is also a decorated veteran of the second world war. Here he maintains that Plato's great work, The Republic, is primarily about the soul and philosophy and only secondarily about politics. He describes the Allegory of the Cave in detail and how it depicts the imprisonment of the soul. He suggests that Plato's emphasis on the Self has been misinterpreted, and this has amounted to a betrayal of philosophy. He also emphasizes the Greek interest in dreams. Philosopher-Kings, he maintains, were the watchers of dreams. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is also past-president of the non-profit Intuition Network, an organization dedicated to creating a world in which all people are encouraged to cultivate and apply their inner, intuitive abilities. (Recorded on October 3, 2017. Special Thanks to Adina Bezerita for facilitating the connection for this interview.) For a complete, updated list with links to all of our videos -- as well as many other opportunities to engage with and support the New Thinking Allowed video channel -- please visit the New Thinking Allowed Foundation at

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