“The Character of Socrates” by Xenophon

“The Character of Socrates” by Xenophon

  • Socrates always said what was on his mind to friends
    • Also made sure that they were independent enough to pursue the avenues they were suited for
    • He knew all his friends very well – often probing their minds w/ questions
  • He taught his friends w/ all his heart the things a person ought to know, & at least be familiar w/ any subject
    • Geometry – Good for surveying & owning property, & being able make use of the land. Going too far into it excluded research into other subjects
    • Astronomy – helped plan journeys by land or sea. It helped hunters & pilots measure distances & directions. But trying to know why the gods made the heavens that way wasn’t possible to understand & trying to do so would drive you crazy
    • Arithmetic – good for business & geometry – but don’t get carried away!
    • Health – you should learn all you can from those who know what to eat, drink & how to exercise
  • He was often forewarned by a deity of what to do & what not to do. Some thought he was crazy for this – he wasn’t.
  • He lived w/ a death sentence hanging over him for 30 days. It was so long b/c it was during the month when it was illegal to execute prisoners
    • But during this period, he lived exactly how he lived before
    • When he had been indicted, he wouldn’t even discuss the case.
      • When pressed on trying to build his defense, he replied:
        • “Don’t you think I have been preparing for it all my life?”
    • He refused to stop his way of life because his life had been growing in goodness
      • If he were to live on, he would have died of old age soon anyway
  • He felt if he were to die unjustly, let those who killed him bear the shame of killing him
    • Posterity judges the dead based on the injustice they did much more than the injustice they had to bear
    • He said he’d be remembered fondly, much more than those who took his life because he lived his life to make others better & to corrupt or wrong nobody.
  • Anyone who knew Socrates knew what sort of a man he was & they searched for virtue & helped out anyone in their own quest
    • He was so religious that he did nothing without consulting the gods
    • He was so just that he did no injury to anyone
    • He was so self-controlled that he never chose the pleasanter over the better course
    • He was so wife that he need no counselor & never erred in his judgment of good & bad
      • He suggested that everyone follow virtue & gentleness
        • Seemed to be a truly good & happy man.

“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent” by John Erskine

  • Ask: “What are modern virtues?”
    • You might answer things we like: meekness, humility, renunciation of world
    • Would you answer, “Intelligence”?
  • Old idea that intelligence is dangerous
    • Anglo-Saxons have derided the idea of intelligence being important
      • As if you have to choose between being good & intelligent
      • As if stupidity is a cousin to morality, and reason & God are not on good terms w/ each other
        • As if you mind is full, your heart is empty
  • Shakespeare often portrays intelligent men as villains or tragic victims
    • Iago, Prospero, Richard, Edmund, Hamlet
      • Best characters are moral but not intelligent
      • English portrayal of humility often accompanied by stupidity
  • Milon’s “Paradise Lost” puts high intelligence to the devil trying to trick God & Job
    • Liberty-loving Satan, always persistent
    • God’s angel cautions Adam not to wander the earth & eat from the Tree of Knowledge
    • Theologians & scientists like Satan
  • Fielding, Scott, Thackeray, Dickens
    • Hero is a well-meaning blunderer saved by the grace of god from his mess of a life
      • Often needs rescue
      • His wife is good but even simpler than he is
  • French authors, especially Balzac, would show us the tragedy of goodness being tied to stupidity
    • would also be incomprehensible to the Greeks
  • Some English writers, Shelley, Byron & Spencer believed in intelligence
    • Spencer may confuse readers because he demands the reader to have a mind & a heart in order to understand
    • English attitude may have come from Germany brought by Saxon invaders
    • No use for craft or strategy
      • just fighting & self-reliance
    • A man was only as good as his word & was ready to back it up with force
    • Germans didn’t enter into public or private business without a sword on them
      • Social emphasis on honor, integrity
        • word more important than deed
      • Words & deeds said something about the man behind them – not good & evil
      • Idea was that without thinking:
        • A good man does good things
        • A bad man does bad things
  • Moral obligation of an intelligent creature to learn if an action leads to a good end or a bad end
    • only a system that excuses him from that is a vicious one
  • Bad acts may be done by bad intentions or our of neglect
    • You must feel responsibility not to neglect learning the consequences of your actions
  • Matthew Arnold said:
    • The purpose of culture is to make reason & will of God prevail
    • Before we can make the will of God prevail, we must find out what it is
  • America has assimilated other cultures apart from English
    • Greek love of knowledge & idea that sin & misery come from ignorance & scientific spirit
  • Need courage & steadfastness
    • But need to recognize when old virtues leave us with something missing
    • Often social & economic problems are about intelligence
      • seems ignoble to admit this
    • Matters of faith
      • seek knowledge not for answers but b/c we think knowledge is life itself
        • not to make God prevail but to know the will of God
        • Love knowledge for its own sake – like virtue
      • If we don’t hand thieves anymore, it’s not because we don’t think any less of thieving
        • it’s because intelligence usually leads to virtue & enterprise
  • Religion
    • Intelligence is the master of virtue
      • decrease fear & increase opportunity
      • outward effect is to rob the altar of its sacrifices & the priest of his mysteries
        • Because we know so much more, the altar is abandoned & the religion becomes revised when it’s clear that sacrifices didn’t work & knowledge is power
        • Then one hypothesis supplants another
    • Religion reacted violently because Darwinism & the like inundated society with knowledge & changed our views so quickly & violently
  • Be patient with those who don’t agree with this idea
    • Dividing – We are rooted by languages, places & customs
    • Uniting – Intelligence unites us after roots of prejudice are pulled up
      • Jesus – he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me
    • Intelligence begins with a pang & turns into a vision to make a life of opportunity, make goodness articulated & make virtue a fact
      • Liberation of human spirit & uniting force

Thomas Babington Macaulay – Machiavelli

Lord Tommy Sideburns

 

Nicky, the Prince

Thomas Babington Macaulay – Machiavelli

  • Machiavelli is usually referred to as a
    • tempter
    • presenter of an evil principle
    • pushing ambition, revenge, perjury
      • Only got this reputation after The Prince
      • As if these things didn’t exist before the Prince
      • Gunpowder Plot blamed on him, as well as other plots
  • People are/were horrified by what they read by/about him
    • Scientifically writing how to back stab & overthrow nations
  • B/c he was Republican & his book scared people. he was thrown in jail
    • Maybe the book was intended to motivate de Medicis?
  • Other works quote Livy & don’t get such reactions
  • Many passages in the Prince have a more patriotic & public good tone
    • Strange mixture of cruelty, selfishness, heroism & enigma
    • This felling is only for outsiders – those who knew him weren’t shocked at all
  • Medici Pope Clement VII patronized books later condemned by the Council of Trent
    • Including the Prince
    • Condemned by English Catholics & French Protestants
  • Focus on city-states in Italy, unlike the rest of Europe
    • Cities survived by being undesirable to invaders
    • Later survived by strength but paid for by money earned in trade
    • Rest of Europe was weak
    • Church supported city-states (popes were from there)
      • Guelph & Ghibellines
  • In the rest of Europe, wealthy families stamped on the people in spite of the government
    • Either taken down by the people or dominated them
  • Lombards & Tuscans gov’ts survived by placating people of city w/ entertainment & food
    • Crusaders brought wealth back
    • Italians became merchants, manufacturers & bankers
    • Economy took, arts flourished
    • Classics returned to Italy & new works created too
    • Patrons bid for artists, writers
  • Military campaigns not feasible b/c army was mostly farmers
    • Need to stay home & farm
    • Handicapped rulers in military most of year able to fight in off-season but not in growing season
    • W/ commerce & industry growing, almost no army
  • From Ionian league era – too rich to fight
    • Hired mercenaries
    • Spartans had slaves to plant while the Spartans fought
  • Italian military was very antiquated
    • Knights were OK but the infantry was useless
    • Swiss had no problem with them
  • War needed a soldier class – standing army
    • Needed to encourage patriotism to get volunteers
    • Italian princes hired mercenaries from all over
    • No loyalty after end of contract
    • Mercenaries didn’t fight for home, only money
    • Had more in common with enemy than employer
  • Italy was vulnerable to France, Spain & Switzerland
    • These nations had valor as its highest virtue
    • Italy – peace & civility were the virtues
  • Successful rulers, Sforzas, used techniques praised by Machiavelli – underhanded
    • Francis – made himself but had no real friends – passing alliances
    • Maybe Shakespeare’s role of Iago based on him
  • Greeks & Romans differed in 2nd century BC
    • Roman conquerors – brave, resolute, faithful, religious, ignorant, arbitrary, cruel
    • Mirrored by Non-Italians in The Prince
    • Greek conquered – had art, science, literature, painting, architecture, polished manners, perceptive, tolerant, humane, sincere
  • Mirrored by Italians in the The Prince
    • Italian statesman
      • half demon (w/ ambitious goals in mind)
        • Impetuous, passionate, full of hatred, revenge
        • no outward courage, cowardly, unscrupulous, very perceptive, intelligence
        • dangerous enemy & accomplice
      • half angel (w/o goals in mind)
        • fair-minded, soft humane, graceful, sublime, patronizes freely
  • Machiavelli – far more virtuous than his intended audience
    • Other works very impressive
      • Mandragola – up there w/ Shakespeare & Molière
      • Clizia – based on a Plautus play
      • Belphegor – borrowed by Ben Jonson
  • Correspondence published in 1700s
    • Wrote that he wasn’t pleased w/ Italy’s circumstances
    • States weren’t independence
    • France, Spain interfering w/ Italy politics
  • Served as a diplomat
    • Ran into Cesare Borgia
    • Wrote about him – impressed
    • Hoped he’d lead for a return to Roman times – Patriotism
  • Proposed:
    • placate people – protection, arts, property rights
    • placate rulers – no interference w/ peasants
  • Saw Naples under foreign occupation
    • Florence extorted again & again
    • Hoped for Medici return in Florence
  • Wrote “Art of War”
    • dialogue talking about arms, military strategy, diplomacy
    • emphasizes Romans, infantry
  • “Discourses on Livy”
    • supported any form of gov’t to give Florence independence
    • Talks about this at end of Prince
  • Looked to Greeks
    • Patriotism was principle & not a passion
  • Compared to Montesquieu
    • Spirit of Laws (1748) was startling to hear a Frenchman arguing for gov’t checks
    • General think but very flowery language
    • The Prince was a specific call for help to save Italy – very honest approach
    • Based on enthusiasm, patriotism
  • At end of his life
    • Saw Medicis return but the foreign powers fought them all the way
  • Misrepresented, abused by people who sought to keep Italy down
    • Patriotism overall

David Hume – Of the Study of History

History will show that that hat was not the best idea.

David Hume – Of the Study of History

  • Hume advises women of the 1700s to study history
  • Women tended to eschew history & the like for fiction
    • Gives a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to a girl he likes
      • Tells her that it’s fiction
      • She likes it at first until she figures out that Alexander & Caesar were real people
      • Does this w/ lots of women to tease them about their aversion to history
  • Much get out of reading History
    • It’s fun
    • it improves your understanding of the world
    • it gives examples to improve your virtues & minimize your vices
  • It’s fun to go back in time & look at places that are completely foreign to us
    • look at early art & sciences
    • see how gov’ts worked & how/why they change over time
    • you see how human society & inventions perfect life
    • see how the times informed people’s vices & virtues
  • Improving our knowledge
    • Often called being erudite
      • really just knowing what happened
      • Might be a luxury to have the time to learn about the rest of the world
      • ought to know about your own country & Greece & Rome
    • history is the passing off of knowledge
      • leading to passing off of knowledge in sciences across time & across national borders
      • it is a way of living since the beginning of time
      • & learning for past experiences
  • Poets & Philosophers help improve our virtues
    • Poets by praising them
    • Philosophers by defining them & defending them
    • History shows how people have gone astray from virtue
  • Machiavelli
    • As a political man
      • Gives excuses for murder, assassination, perjury
    • As historian
      • says vice is bad & shows historical evidence on how going on the wrong path leads to bad results
    • Philosophers speak in abstract manners
    • Historians show how people & societies stray from or stick to virtues & the consequences of those actions

Of Youth & Age – Sir Francis Bacon

Of Youth & Age – Francis Bacon

  • Youth is a relative term
    • Your mind is the real key
  • But the youth tend to have a wilder imagination
    • But some people are a bit too crazy & passionate to do anything productive
  • Look at Caesar & Septimius Severus
    • Septimius was known to be a wild child
      • But was considered a very good emperor
  • Some rulers like Augustus, Cosimus of Florence and others
    • were pretty calm in their youths
  • Younger men are better to create than judge
    • Better to do than advise
    • Better for new things than tradition
  • Age gives us experience
  • Youth are usually impatient, passionate & careless
    • Bite off more than they can chew
    • More prone to extremes – makes more problems
      • unlikely to apologize for stepping on people’s feet
  • Old men say “no” to too much
    • delay too much, risk too little, give up too soon
  • Best is to use the both for their own good
    • The balance of both – one helps the other
  • Young men learn better
    • Old men teach and act better
  • The young haven’t had time to develop their intelligence & inner strength
    • They haven’t had time to appreciate the subtleties of life
  • The young have the opportunity to use their enthusiasm for speech & rhetoric
    • It looks silly on old people