Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Great Beast's Beliefs

Having learned all this through associating and spending time with the beast, he calls this wisdom, gathers his information together as if it were a craft, and starts to teach it. Knowing nothing in reality about which of these convictions or appetites is fine or shameful, good or bad, just or unjust, he uses all these terms in conformity with the great beast's beliefs—calling the things it enjoys good and the things that anger it bad. He has no other account to give of them, but calls everything he is compelled to do just and fine, never having seen how much the natures of compulsion and goodness really differ, and being unable to explain it to anyone.
——Republic, 493c, Reeves translation

It wasn't until I typed this out that I noticed the emphasized phrasing.

Does this mean seeing this difference between compulsion and goodness moves one to know the difference between teaching in conformity with the great beast and the one who teaches wisdom?

Is it enough to explain this difference?

The beast of the classroom knows only its beliefs of enjoyment and anger. It doesn't yet know the difference between compulsion and goodness.

But there is a compulsion that leads to goodness. This is the point of the discipline of the soul as preparation for wisdom. Wisdom only results in those who survive the struggle with the beast.

The Socratic Method is not a 'use of force' to subdue an opponent. It is the bending of the opponent's rage—their own beastliness, crouching and snarling and pouncing in the discussion—into its own dissipation and retiring. But it takes discipline in one's soul not simply to not fight back ("I'm holding in my secret powers of killing you to give you a chance at redemption!" says the hero who lays aside the gun—but not too far aside), but discipline to persevere through the bleeding and the pains of struggling with the beast.

Everything made of material eventually tires and retires.

But what has soul lives immortally.

It is thus the soul of the classroom the teacher must bend with, but not to charm it. To make it reminded of material, so that it, too, tires and retires, and returns to our first love: wisdom. We do this through its first hate: compulsion.

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