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Elite Paganism
Man in Society and the Cosmos
1. The Cosmos 2. Philosophy as Cosmic Ascent 3 . Plato on the Cosmos 4 . Goodness 6. Ruling Yourself and Being Ruled 7. Teachers and their Systems 8. Priority of Love and Reason

1. The Cosmos
The universe is a single totality. There is nothing outside what is already in existence. This Totality is one, and it is everything that there is Hen kai pan. It is Unity itself. It is Reality itself. It has all being and it is being itself. It is eternal and changeless. It is good and the Good. It is Truth and all that is true. It is the Soul, and it is identical with Reason. There is no division in this totality. Being has no parts, and therefore there are not multiple beings, but only one Being itself. There is no movement, no change, there is no time. Because it includes everything it is harmonious, and so it is divine. It is cosmos harmonious, perfect and beautiful. It is a god and it is Divinity itself. Now something has happened. There has been an event, and the event is a disaster. There has been a rift in Being, and as a result there are now two beings. There is an upper world, which is Being itself, and which good and true. And there is a lower world, a second world, a being. The lower world only has the being, the goodness and reality it takes from the upper world. The upper world is true, the lower world is true only to extent that it reflects the upper world. The weaker its connection to the upper world becomes, the less being or existence it has. All beings in the lower world strive to move back upwards, to be reconnected to what they have left. All beings are secondary and derived, and they all strive to become, to be absorbed back into Being itself. There are not, ultimately, many beings. Unity is good and true, while plurality is a misfortune. There is an inexplicable, catastrophic event. This whole suffers a lapse. Its unity is damaged and it becomes two things. The second is an emanation or refraction of the original. The first, top world is real. It is the Form. Everything is a reflection of it and participates in it. The further away from it they fall, the less being and reality they have. But if this can happen once, it can happen again. The second world itself might suffer a lapse, and so produce a third world. Should this continue there might be a succession of world, each of which drops and which are connected more or less tenuously to the world above it. The One may continue to produce copies, increasingly poor copies of itself Where before there was just one thing, perfect and without change or alteration or dissolution, there is a second universe. Where before there was eternity, now there is eternity plus something less than eternity something that is in uneasy movement or process of disintegration. This second thing is itself now made of parts, that move and grate against each other, producing irregularity, dissonance and dissolution. Cosmic harmony has failed. This whole movement is a mistake and misfortune.

Change is an aberration: all change will be halted, reversed, and timelessness restored. The fact that there is a world, or many worlds, is a result of a fall. There may appear to be many entities, but ultimately there can only be one being, Being itself. This process of division and dissolution might go into reverse. These emanations might be re-absorbed until the multitude of things that exist would be absorbed and dissolved. The world and persons might disappear. The world will disappear altogether and so it will have been corrected. It will be as though it had never been.

2. Philosophy as Cosmic Ascent

The Cosmos has failed to hold together. At some time in the past there was a cosmic catastrophe and what was once an entire and perfect world has suffered a collapse. The whole has produced a lesser version of itself, an emanation, a copy of the original. Where there was one thing, now there is another, though the second thing is an aberration, a bad copy of the first. And if there can be a second entity, there can be a third, fourth, and so a series of emanations without end, each of them a faint copy of the preceding emanation, each more distant from the truth of the whole. In the Timaeus the cosmos was described as a totality in which the world and man and god together constituted a single divine being. Subsequent developments introduced more complex layers and ladders of intermediaries, a great chain of being.We require a complex of intermediaries to help us to ascend. We have fallen from pure reality, down into a terrible half-life, where nothing can be recognised for what it is and suffer from division as a result of materiality. Everything relates to what it once was and the most we can look forward to is that it becomes again what it once was. Languishing near the bottom of this chain of worlds of diminishing reality, descending eons, we suffer a reality deficit. The upper realm has all reality, action and unity; the lower reality has only the reality, action and unity which the upper realm lends it. All that belongs to the intellect rises to this upper realm, while all materiality and formlessness sink down to form a morass without unity. Mankind was once a timeless and immortal being, but we have become material beings, and this is a disaster. Our whole purpose now must be to recover by disengaging ourselves from the immediate material circumstances in which we find ourselves. Philosophy is a program of ascent. It takes the student from contemplating bodies, through contemplating souls, to contemplate the Mind and what is beyond. For the Greeks everything relates to its origin. Plato and Socrates believe that we come to know things by recapturing them from the past. All knowing is an act of recovery. The souls in bodies all originally come from a single transcendent Soul and never fully lose their identity with it. The mind has to retrace its path back out of this fog that is made up of all the material and broken pieces of reality. The questioning mind can carve through the blizzard of appearances and sense impressions, to feel its way towards the original unity behind them

Knowing about the cosmos, and its underlying harmony, helps us to recover our own lost harmony. Though individuals may not yet realise it, their true interests are in harmony with their society and nation, and these are in harmony with the cosmos. We should not think that each of us has to struggle against our city or against nature. Should we leave behind political ambitions and take up intellectual and moral ones? Or can we pursue intellectual ambitions as though we were without any political ambitions? Socrates thinks there is a parallel or even identity between the political ascent (into public acclaim) and the cosmological ascent (of the individual, away from the world of public recognition). Cosmological ascent has to be individual, and involves you leaving behind any desire to promote your own reputation. Those around you get usually upset when you show signs of trying to escape the competition for acclaim. They regard it as form of betrayal. If you are attempting to purify yourself, all your contemporaries understand that you have identified them as part of the corruption that you want to escape. The philosopher is sometimes regarded as an eccentric, and occasionally as a dangerous political dissident. Socrates believes that there is no gap between acting truthfully and acting effectively. Socrates thinks that thinking helps doing, for thinking helps us to act more truthfully and effectively. Thinking is the action that helps all other forms of action. There is no gap between what is true and what works, no gap between theory and practice. Truth is always up-building. Lying is always counter-productive so it makes no sense. It harms the liar by delaying his engagement with truth.

Love and Wisdom

Man is driven by curiosity. He has wants, and he doesn't yet have what he wants. That he wants it means he knows that he doesn't have it. He is mad with love for it. Being in love is being a little out of your mind. Love is a god, and being in love is possessed by this god. All desires and forms of attraction, are forms of love. Man is a searcher and enquirer. We are all of us engaged in finding a better way to do things, and thus drawn towards excellence and the joy that accompanies it. If the search becomes serious we will no longer be interested in the ordinary and everyday things. This lover of wisdom, we may call the philosopher (philo = love, sophia = wisdom). The philosopher is a seeker and searcher, and sometimes perhaps also he finds what he is looking for. Man is a curiosity-driven being, an enquirer, scientist and philosopher. He is driven by love and desire. Love leads him upwards from the material things that make up the appearances to the moral and intellectual things that are the truth behind all appearances. The philosopher is driven by the desire to know. He is an investigator because is dissatisfied by the usual explanations and looks beyond the immediate appearances. His investigations mean that he has to ask questions about the consensus view and he may withdraw from public life. Each person is a microcosm of society as a whole. Each person is a microcosm of the cosmos. Society as a whole is a microcosm of the cosmos. But the cosmos has become fragmented so all that we are able to see are disconnected pieces. We ourselves are pieces that have to be pieced together. So we can learn about the

whole, the cosmos, by examining its parts, and feeling out way towards a coherent, contradiction-free account of their connections. Philosophy is all about talking that will examine each of beliefs and test it for coherence with all the rest, and we can find out which our own assumptions to abandon, and so we move increasingly away from the cloud of unexamined assumptions, into greater truth. By examining fragments and looking for a good fit between them, we may discover how the original unity and logic of the cosmos This is the talking cure, a therapy in which we are able to identify falsehood and so to be rid of it.

Desire and Knowledge

Socrates Our final virtue is the desire to know. Man is This is something much greater than inquisitiveness, curiosity it is the drive to science. The fullest and highest definition of man is the man who searches and wants to know. The greatest personification of this man the Greeks offer us is Socrates. Socrates is the personification of enquiry. He is relentlessly curious. He says he is the gentle innocent, though he is able to play more innocent than he is, in order to get his interlocutors to blurt out the pieces of evidence he needs. He takes their remarks more seriously than they do themselves. Socrates takes the views of ordinary people seriously, finding the range of opinions and the consensus of common sense as the starting place for our enquiry. Man is in love. He is driven and consumed by desire. Love is a disease, like curiosity, so here we see that knowledge is a kind of love or passion, and that everything can be given up for it. The word Plato uses for this desire is love. We have to attach ourselves to those in whom we see nobility and become apprenticed to them. The senior man will induce the junior into the art of being a man. In the Symposium we learn that a boy is apprenticed to a senior: he will accompany him and learn from him how to be a man. Man and boy are held together by love and loyalty, and the boy learns as a result of this relationship. But if the man loves the boy, isnt an unhealthy dependency created? Socrates is not trapped by his love into any such dependency. Because he is able to resist the passion of love, Socrates is the model for all the thinkers and teachers that follow him in the pursuit of manliness or virtue. Socrates show that the philosopher is the man who rises above all passions and forces and is not pushed around by them. Socrates insists that knowledge is a form of love. So we see that to be most human is to be driven by curiosity, and so to be a little out of control. Socrates is in perfect control of all of his passions, except love. He is driven only by curiosity to go on asking questions, which reveal that we do not know what we think we know. He feels none of the pressures of this world, feels no pain, tiredness, but continuously turns from the first appearances, inwards upwards to the second and third, so from bodily things, to their first original pure shape. Curiosity is a form of desire and desire is a form of love. Love drives science. Socrates has the power to take pressure without being overcome by it. He is unfazed under enemy fire, does not feel tiredness, is not made drunk by wine, does not feel the sexual advances of Greeks most desirable man. He seems impervious to all the

passions and pressures that knock other people off their path. Socrates cannot be forced to resort either to violence or flight himself. His control over his own body and feelings is absolute: this is a deeper form of manliness. To be a man is then to be immune to the struggle. Our highest calling is to make ourselves imperturbably serene, by the power of thought to raise ourselves above the everyday shocks of this world, that we no longer notice them. Impassivity is the greatest virtue. The disciple and lover of wisdom is an investigator. He yearns for the fullness and reality of the things of which he presently only has the pieces. Socrates believes that the truth is latent in the mind of every human being due to his innate reason but has to be given birth by questions asked by the teacher and answers given by the student. By asking questions Socrates simply draws out what is there within each of those he speaks to. He claims that he himself is barren, but like the proverbial midwife (maieutikos) this enables him to assist at the birth of ideas in others. By eliciting the views of his listeners and students, he enables until they see that some views are not compatible with others. Then by his questions he helps them search for principles by which to decide which views to discard. This is the dialectic the conversation means of ruling out options until truth is revealed. Questioning (elenchus) or arguing (eristics) are forms of the wrestling that is intrinsic to public life. We proceed by probing and questioning. So we can move from the smaller case, of any particular craft to the larger case of making and running a functioning society. And we move from the larger case of running a society to the smaller case of the proper behaviour for an individual. Indeed the whole cosmos is also a city, and may be considered on the analogy of a city, or of a single organism. All our talk is analogical.

3. Plato on the Cosmos

Plato described a hierarchy of being. At the top of which were the Forms or Ideas, and at the bottom, the miasma of this life. The one cosmos has divided into separate realms of many layers in a chain of being. In the Timaeus he described one indissoluble one cosmos, a totality in which the world and man and god together constituted a single divine being. Down here we suffer from a reality deficit. Plato gives a number of versions of this cosmology. Plato indicates that the soul can escape bodiliness by a process of purification. He offers us plausible accounts in narrative form, as stories. It is as though we have fallen into a deep crevasse: we live in the shadows and receive only very poor refractions of a reality far above us. By a process of paideia some few of us can return to that reality, learn it and come back to educate the rest of us in it. There is not sufficient reality or truth this far down the cosmos. We are all short of constantly light-headed. We follow our leader, but we also abandon one leader to follow another, and so we move around in herds or swarms, restlessly on the move, searching, but changing direction before we find anything. All parts of Platos universe seek the good and are drawn together by love, so whatever is higher is in charge, so the head in control of the body. We are all called upwards. The upper world exerts a force of attraction. Love exerts a pull, which we are powerless against. Love exerts itself, but does not ultimately allow us any

freedom. The head has more goodness and reality about it than the body, but the head supplies the body with the goodness and control that it is capable of. At the top of the cosmos are the ideas. Ideas are the forms or matrices which place their stamp on material to make each specific thing. The Greeks regard material as not ideal for this purpose, for materiality does not succeed in preserving the shape the ideas give to it. Materiality is not the best substance to reflect perfection. In the Timaeus the Demiurge, observing the perfect form, crafted in the material that was to hand, a copy that was as good as that material would allow. At the top of the cosmos the heavenly bodies ceaseless process in a perfect motion. Everything below them shares in some degree in their motion, but the further from them we are, the more the perfection of that motion is forgotten, and the more disrupted, staccato it becomes. At the bottom of the cosmos all motion is chaotic. Everything is fragmented, and this manic motion reaches a storm, and a rage. The miasma and the unreliability of this world means that it cannot be properly known. This chaotic motion brings into being matter. Matter is motion at its most chaotic. The bottom of the world is a mire of material that has to form, no beauty and no continuity. Everything comes into being and passes away again, failing to hold any single form. The world we know is a junkyard in which everything is so chaotically piled up on everything else that it is near impossible to say what anything once was. Only if one of us ascends to where everything has come from and sees there the proper use and form of everything, will they be able to make out what things here are supposed to be. What only very faintly and imperfectly picks up this motion does not have any very lasting reality. It is all we know, but its imperfect motion will continue to contort it and change it so it. Because of it is imperfect, all this motion becomes material. What is material is not really real. The World-Soul sends the whole universe on its revolutions. Out of the shattered, chaotic and irrational movements we experience here, we have to have to be trained to recover the perfect motion of the heavenly bodies overhead, as they follow the perfect motion of the cosmos above them. By listening to the movements of the universe and tuning out all the distracting noise of this lower realm we can get back into step with the universe. This will take not one but many, many lifetimes, but if we concentrate here, in the next life we may be a step further forward, one step higher on the cosmic ladder. We may appear to stay here, but when life in this present world (eon) is over we will be promoted to the one above, in which we will than make a circuit. We can be advanced or relegated, move upwards or downwards. Over our heads are more eons. They represent the lessons which we have to learn, and they represent the rulers who are our teachers and disciplinarians. The rulers are past rulers, and the further back in the past the higher they are, and the higher they are the deeper their roots in the past, and the closer to the origin of all things and so also the more truthful they are. We have as it were fallen out of the past. Getting back to that past, or to that timeless state, is our future.

Platos sources the Presocratics

Plato drew on a number of philosophical systems set out by thinkers known as the Presocratic philosophers. These tended to look for a fundamental principle that gives unity to all the phenomena. Ill mention three.

Parmenides (515-450) Being is. Becoming has no existence. Everything that does not belong to the perfect world of being is miasma and illusion. Heracleitus (540-600) believes that the most fundamental phenomenon is change. All is flux. We cannot enter the same river twice: the river changes and so do we. Since all everything is in flux, we cannot know it. Men are taken in by appearances. Things happen by necessity. Conflict is the father of all things. There is a hidden harmony between opposites; Change and Sameness presuppose each other and belong to the same underlying logos. If one does not perceive the connection behind them we will call something just or unjust and not understand their unity. Empedocles (492-432) believed that the cosmos moves in cycles, or alternates between long period in which divisions are proliferation (conflict increasing) and periods. At the end of each period that is a state of complete stability or complete war. In Love's dominance all elements are uniformly and completely mixed and bonded into a single spherical compound comprising all material in the universe; at maximum strife there is a complete separation of elements. Empedocles taught the transmigration of souls reincarnation (metempsychosis). As an animal victim is dismembered, its parts are dispersed throughout the cosmos which is sustained by this supply of material from micro to macro. The tissue of sacrificed animals rise to become clouds and then rain, then part of the plant life, and to become cattle again as animals eat and drink, then they refine this fluid into semen from which new cattle are born. The bodies of the first man and every human, and the first cow and all subsequent cows are dispersed throughout the cosmos, and present in all food. Every drop of water and kernel of grain contains all the bodily parts of any human or animal are present in it, so there is an infinite regression of worlds within worlds. Each animal is human (or daimon) in another bodily form, sacrifice is therefore murder and creates a cycle of violence . The first act of sacrificial slaughter resulted in separated spirits condemned to wander through a cycle of reincarnations, being successively spat out by the four elements, so the chaos and rage of the cosmos is the punishment for the crime of animal sacrifice. Plato inherited from Pythagoras (570-497) the view that the drops of soul that have fallen from the higher circles here take on matter and are enveloped in bodies, within which they are trapped and forget what they were. To recover their identity souls must look up, gaze at what is above them, they will remember that more perfect motion and recover it for themselves. The proper calling of any soul is to gaze upward (theoria). Pythagoras governed a religious community and city, intending the rulers to be a strict intellectual elite. This was an Orphic (wandering of souls) individualistic dualist religion of redemption for the initiated through a secret, ritual and ascetic teaching that purifies the soul so that it can rejoin the divine. Insight into cosmic order makes man himself well ordered. This upward gaze that orders and calms the motion is the basic metaphor of Greek philosophical thought.

4. Goodness
Should man identify himself entirely with his society and serve his country? Or should he seek his own way even if that means setting himself against his society? Should man obey the law and conventions of his culture, or should he follow his

(biological) nature? Is the Strong Man stronger when he follows nomos or phusis, when he obeys convention, or when he obeys only his own nature? Is civilisation just the weak combining together to indoctrinate the strong in order to control them? Is civilisation a conspiracy again the strong? Should the strong free themselves? Must each nation always be two communities, the rich and the poor, the free and the unfree, the well-ruled and the mob? Can the interests of the top and the bottom, the educated and the uneducated coincide? Socrates believes that nature and law are not at war. The law and traditions of society reflect the universal truth of the cosmos. But nature is cosmic, whereas law is always based in the conventions of our own society. But the conventions of each society are different, so how can they all reflect the universal truth of nature? Socrates and Plato say that the strong man is strong when he acquires all the attributes represented by law and tradition. Then he is also able to exercise the selfrestraint that allows him to build a nation and create the consensus that sustains it. He is happy to receive his praise from the gods, and does what is right, which the same as what benefits the country, whether or not he receives praise from his countrymen. He is strong when he identifies his interests with those of the nation, and teaches all members of the nation to identify their own interests with those of the nation as a whole. Socrates does not believe that the interests of well-ruled, well-trained rulers are different from the interests of the people as a whole. Plato writes The Republic to show how a nations leaders may be educated to control or defer their own interests and see them as identical. This would bring a leader-caste that uninterested in amassing wealth, or in promoting the interests of their own families or tribes. The leader-caste would share a monastic poverty, and this would mean that they were separated from their own families. The unity of the state requires the abortion of the family, for leaders at least. How to make a peaceful society? Violence in the media encourages violence in society. If we ban violent stories and images in the media we will curb the worst of our behaviour and become more peaceful. Plato therefore wants to give us to give accounts that portray the gods as good and moral. We could say that these are little white lies. Plato does not believe that it is good to allow our dramatists to present us with stories in which the gods behave like petulant rivals (as Homer) or even as beasts (as Hesiod does). We need to control the media in order to reduce civil discord, so that we all identity our own interests with those of our society. Becoming Citizens Education is a training for citizenship and of military service. All our education is about forming members of society, by teaching us how to fit in. Can the Greeks rediscover the virtues that make each of them an upright and free man? Plato asks how we can live well. To teach us how to be human is the task of the law and our traditions. The law provides descriptions of what is good, and then it gives us the means to judge what is good in each case. Plato says that we not only have to submit willingly to the law, but that we have to learn the law, because it is the condensed experience of many generations. Plato tells us that there must be

discipline. We are completely out of control and liable to harm ourselves because we have no direction or guidance, we cannot hear the steady word of the law, either the law of the cosmos and nature or this law as it has been formulated in simple louder terms for our childlike condition by our own ancestors. Plato says that a good human being is a leader and a teacher. He can do all this as long as he is himself a student of the law and traditions that his nation has built up over a long period of time. The leader who is ruled by law can be a good shepherd of his people. The person educated in these traditions of wisdom is able to be more perfectly in control of themselves, less driven by short-termism, and so they are able to lead others. But where we find people like this? And when we find them, how can we make sure that they get into important positions where they will make a difference? What processes of education and enlightenment can create such persons? Here the law, and education, will help us. We need to know our own tradition. To be a leader means living in public and actively persuading other people to follow you. It means being able to talk about how to live, and what it is good to do, and to try to persuade other people of the value of the route you have taken. A leader is generous and supplies his people with whatever they need. The positive classical definition of justice involves giving the other person your wisdom, encouragement and support. This involves giving instruction and advice and sorting out their disputes. Dispensing justice is a generous act. Part of this generosity is teaching them their law and traditions, and interpreting that law for them, and even teaching them to interpret it for themselves. Athens Athens is the first democracy. It is the place where men rule themselves. They are not in the condition of slaves or children, but they are in the full sense, men. Athens prides itself on its brilliant amateurism. Its citizens work on the land or in trade and possibly both, and they take their turn at being members of Athens assembly and on juries, and if they are the age for military service, they go to war. Athens has to keep expanding, opening new territory and bringing it into its economic orbit. There was a close connection between those who voted for war, those who had to pay for it, and those who had to go and fight it. The fact that all its citizens are active involved ensured that the whole city pulled together. The reason why Athens is different from anywhere else, Athenians believe, is that Athens is a city under law, good laws and constitution given by wise men (Solon) and interpreted by wise leaders (Pericles). They act as the teachers of the city. Athenians are a free people, a people who are under their own rule, because each of them rules himself and accepts the correction of his peers. They do this because they are as a whole under the rule of law, observing both the written law (nomos) and unwritten conventions. They take the decisions and virtues of their ancestors as a legacy that has to be valued, taught and passed on so that the external law become fully the internal law of each citizen.

For a polity moulds its people; a goodly one moulds good men, the opposite bad. Therefore I must show that our ancestors were moulded in a good polity, thanks to which they and the present generationare good men (Plato Menexenus 238c).

Freedom makes for a mature citizenry which displays all the virtues, the whole gamut of corporate manliness. They are free men, which clearly makes them superior to their international rivals, Sparta and the massive totalitarianism of the Persian empire. Athens can be a democracy only to the extent that it is a nomocracy, a society in which every individual is under the rule of law. Our readiness to respect the law and internalize it in ourselves makes us free men. But Athens has not been able to follow its own law, or to follow the direction it gives us towards finding the harmony that is the truth of the cosmos. Thucydides pointed out that in Athens the assembly had voted for whoever made the most entertaining speeches, so that no had the courage to tell the assembly what it didn't want to hear. There was a constant plebiscite, in which the power of a leader depended on his popularity. The rule of the people just did not allow from anyone to concern themselves with the middle or long term. Democracy did not allow the virtues and institutions to develop by which we could decide in favour of the truthful argument rather than instant gratifying one. Democracy without virtue is a disaster. Athenians have not learned to internalize for themselves the virtue that brings justice and harmony. As a result there has been civil war, tyranny and terror. Justice and Politics Plato wants to know how to restore society as a functioning political entity. He gives us a comprehensive statement about what good society is based on. It is based on justice. A functioning society and state is rightly ruled, and that means that it is ruled by justice. Justice is best summarized as the right balance. It is not merely about right proportions that makes a situation not only fair, but functioning and even so well-proportioned that is beautiful. On this very large definition, balance, right proportion or justice, is the crucial concept that describes what we are looking for in any discipline or area of life architecture, music, sport, business, politics, and our own personal make-up. Balance means beauty and means that everything works, and that we find our proper places and responsibilities relative to one another so we have a world without friction, without ambiguity, and without conflict. Plato wants to teach us how to discriminate between one thing another and tell which is better, and so to become good judges and managers. We want to develop the ability to discriminate so we become more expert in our field. In this way we all intend to grow towards whatever is best. The course of paideia must form and educate all the members of that society. This happens by the education of a class of leaders who develop excellence. This class will lead. There is an inevitable pursuit of excellence and this results in a monarch-aristocracy-oligarchy-democracy but the whole lot is under the law and resources of tradition which is the memory and experience of that society. We have knowledge but we don't have total knowledge, but we seek to know more, and this involves us in a process of formation, an apprenticeship. Justice is the most basic human characteristics. We all need to discover justice. We can talk about justice as though it were any other skill or craft. We look round for role models and leaders. We can talk about good action justice by analogy. We know


that pastry cooks cook pastries, and that they learn their trade and when their pastry is horrible we say that they are not good cooks. Even simple job like baking is about a mixture of things, achieving a proper balance a kind of justice between them. A good cook can find that proper balance and justice between ingredients. We know what a ships captain does, what mixture of things he has to be good at, in order to sail a ship. Again, he has to find his way between a lot of competing pressures, like any businessman. If we found out that this captain couldnt find that balance, so either his ship sank or his ship never made any money on the route it ran, he would cease to be a captain. Just as there are lots of different skills required in even these two straightforward jobs, many skills are required for success in life. We could sum them up as the skill of justice, that correctly apportions responsibilities. Plato keeps truth and goodness together. He does not separate truth from goodness, which means that he does not separate facts from value. He does not divide the world into two domains of nature and culture, separating the spheres of what is and what must be, is from ought, respectively. He has a unified theory which includes knowledge of what is, and knowledge of what we are to do, so science and morality, science and ethics.

5. Ruling Yourself and Being Ruled

Law and Education
If we fail to be masters of ourselves, we inflict ourselves on others and so attempt to exert mastery over them. Platos discussion of human action relates to the cosmos as a whole. His political economy has the three elements of soul, city and cosmos. Each of these is also made of three parts. In each part of his account Plato points to the complete account that includes discussion of law and tradition, and insists that we must cultivate these resources and pass them on to those who come after us. This work is termed paideia. Plato argues that without cultivating tradition and law we will simply produce tautologies about how to win influence, control people and regulate affairs, and then what we say will simply reflect our claim to power. The way the cosmos moves towards the good is to a degree reflected by the conventions that have arisen in any society. Over time those conventions become the constitution and law of that society. But all law points each member of that society towards a more perfect correspondence with the cosmos. All law is formative and educational. Every national constitution is an agenda and a syllabus for the training of its people. The Law represents a course of education. This cosmos is ordered and it invites mankind to learn and direct himself to this order, and to order his society so that it is led towards the good, so that we proceed from good to better to best, and that we follow those who are best informed and most disciplined. Because it is ordered it is hierarchical, and because it is directed towards excellence, and we are led by an elite, it is inevitably elitist. A leader must be ruled and disciplined by the law. Only when he is himself under the law can he be the shepherd and governor of his people. A leader exercises generosity. This generosity involves giving counsel, instruction, encouragement and support. It means that he will give justice, for giving judgment and dispensing justice


is a generous act. The most fundamental task of the law is to teach us how to be human. It provides descriptions of what is good, and then it provides us with means for judging what is good in each case. It points to those good instincts that we have to acquire in order to make good decisions. Without such a descriptive resource and without the cultivation and care this resource requires we have no means of saying what particular thing we want. Plato hopes that the king will be a wise man, a philosopher, who is trained for his high calling by a strict regime of education, laid out in the Republic, into the secrets of the cosmos. Plato sets out the political options with more clarity than anyone since. Plato also sets out the connections between politics and nature, that is, between the realm of human interaction, and the whole much vaster interaction of natural and cosmic forces. Politics is just a little local example of the same confrontations and negotiations that go on in nature at all levels of the cosmos. Law as Sham Plato also sets out the challenges to the account he gives. He puts them in the mouths of the interlocutors who drive the Republic and other dialogues. In the Republic, Thrasymachus argues that breaking the law feels a lot more like freedom than keeping the law does. Thrasymachus (Republic 338c) says the dominant power in the city makes laws to its own advantage. Callicles and Glaucon give a stronger version of this. Glaucon points out that we all want to get away with whatever we can, but don't want others to get away with anything that puts us at a disadvantage. Glaucon introduces the social contract (358e-359b): we refraining from wrong-doing in order that everyone else also refrains from doing us wrong. The general public tends to believe that good people are weak. They admire the strong and calls good whatever you can get away with. Callicles (in Gorgias 482c-484c) says that it is better to commit an injustice than to suffer one. To suffer an injustice is truly shaming. The majority are weak. They know that they are unable to resist if every strong man were free to pursue their own advantage. They therefore settle for equal shares for all. The law is just the conspiracy of the weak against the strong. A truly strong person will see through the sham of the law, and get on with pursuing his own natural advantage, taking he wants and building up his own position (Gorgias 488b-492c). Your natural superiority demands that you enjoy your natural advantage and gratify your desires without restraint. The life of virtue (arte) and happiness is the unhindered satisfaction of your desires. Don't let other people talk you into Throw off all self-control. The Unruled Ruler and the Misery of Lawlessness But the people may not be right. The will of the people is not the same thing as right, so a politician cannot merely demand that the government give the people want it demands. It must be possible to say that the people are wrong, self-deluded or lazy. It is possible for us to say this as we compare this or that people with the law and tradition of the country to find that they do or don't display the virtues of an active and responsible citizenry. A good people is one who will take criticism from its leaders. A good leader cannot prevail over a resentful people. A good citizenry makes it possible for its leaders and government to be good leaders and a good government.


A good ruler is able to take counsel, and indeed he can only become a good leader by undergoing an extensive apprenticeship, and he must remain under the law. Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) in De Clementia, the first mirror for princes, explains the difficulty of safely telling the emperor the truth. It is not always safe to speak out, the country may be in such a condition that a good man cannot help. A man may not have the skill of flattery vital to survive in court. Every ruler knows that he must imitate the gods by ruling with generosity, justice, and mercy. The wise ruler will be venerated, and after his death perhaps he will himself become divine. The master who has nothing to do, and who is not obliged to do anything (by either his friends or servants (because he has none) and who therefore has nothing to do loses the ability to do anything and becomes passive and supine. Whereas the slave who regularly takes his beating and is put to hard work, becomes strong not only physically, but mentally. The man only under his own control is a menace to himself and to everyone around him. Tyrants are to be pitied. Xenophon (Hiero: On Tyranny) says the dictator has no one to control him. No one can prioritise or contextualise his desires for him, so he does not know what is really important. He wants everything at once. He cannot accept anyone telling that some things he cannot have, or must wait for. He is tyrannised by his own passions and fears and vulnerable to the fluctuating loyalty of his people. Absolute freedom, without law or discipline, is therefore a trap.

6. Teachers and their Systems

Four Greek cosmologies
We can compare four versions of the Greek pagan view of the world, four cosmologies. They all understand philosophy as a program of ascent that takes the student from contemplating bodies, through contemplating souls, to contemplate the Mind and what is beyond. It is an apprenticeship based on the view that bodies and materiality are a mistake, and so it is a means by which we can hope to escape them. They are, in order of their comprehensiveness, Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism and Epicureanism. We could even see them as levels of a single intellectual system. 1. Plato The top level with the most substantial account of the universe and our place in is represented by Plato. He offers the account with the full teleology which gives us our place within the entire cosmos and cosmology and a way of moving up the hierarchy of being. 2. Aristotle The next level down is represented by Aristotle. Here the teleology is no longer connected to a full cosmology. Nature is an autonomous system of drives, a total classificatory system and educational system for the formation and moving up the hierarchy of being. Two-nature definition of nature what the thing is now and what it could be.


3. Stoicism In Stoicism the teleology has almost disappeared, so the continuity and consequences of history are minimal. The atmospheric pressure is thinner still. All is only a matter of the therapy of catharsis, of ridding oneself of motion and passion, rather than of living in a society together. My nature, appetites and self-interest entirely dictate what it is I am able to say, believe or admit to. Nature determines what passes for truth. Nature is underneath, truth on top. Nature brings the inevitability of competition, erosion and time. One nature theory of nature what the thing is now is what it always will be. What you see is what you get. What does not presently appear in our lens is regarded as unimportant to the observer without patience. Stocism represents the courage and heroism of man pitted against a hostile world. 4. Epicureanism, materialism, atomism Epicureanism is the desire for escape is withdrawal from a universe of violent things. As Lucretius puts it, It is in the very nature of gods that they should enjoy immortal life in perfect peace, far removed and separated from our world; free from all distress, free from all peril, fully self-sufficient, independent of us they are not influenced by worthy conduct or touched by anger Lucretius On the Nature of Things 82). The Epicurean wants to find forgetfulness, contentment and oblivion. This comes through forgetting history, memory, continuity and consequences. These four systems are always present. They have been so crucial to the intellectual history of Europe, and through Europe the world (and they were only Greek developments of wider Indo-European and Asiatic worldviews anyway). The more we think we have either evolved away from them, or have aggressively rooted them out, the more they are firmly grounded, not only in - but at much deeper level in the logic on which all our worldviews are carried. All four systems are present and represented in the modern and postmodern worldviews. They are represented to different degrees in different academic disciplines.

Aristotle Man is the Animal with Ambition

Plato had many students, who together constituted the Academy. But the best known is the one who had a substantially different approach Aristotle. Aristotle sees man is intrinsically social. It is people who give meaning to things, so we need other men give everything whatever point it has. What people believe therefore is very important, and in any scientific description we can set out what people understand a thing to be, what the consensus on it is. Men argue about how to live together and those this living together is deliberate act, so man is also the political animal. We work towards goals. Indeed all nature works towards goals. Everything strives. We need a two-nature definition of nature, that can describe what the thing is now and what it could be, so an acorn is what it is now, but on a second definition, it is a future oak tree. Aristotle works with two accounts of who we are: we are beings of nature, and we are the products of our own total action. Is our being and the function of nature, or the result of the work of the providing or withholding the reputation and substance of others? Certainly everyone understands that what are relates to what other people think we are: we grow as our reputation grows. Thus we make each other the persons we are. What being we have is the function of the work of others in attributing honour and substance to one another.


Man a striving animal. Every animal is a bundle of impulses, that move the animal and keep it alive. We are units of appetite and of effort. Man is animate, alive, in motion. When we look at animals or at man, we can start with the individual, or we can start from the motion and life, the impulses and stimuli which move that individual and make him what he is. We can do better. . Aristotle considers everything in the light of what it may become. He offers a teleology, a description of the thing that includes its goals. The purpose of everything is life lived in public together. Aristotelian political philosophy assumes that man is intrinsically social, and that the achievement of more sophisticated sociality is the whole point of politics and of life. Aristotle thinks through the relationship of unity and action. Thinking helps us to act better, and to prefer better forms of action. Considerations of how to do better arise in the course of any action. Some actions are better than others simply because they involve greater virtuosity. The end of all action is public life. Our peers judge our action, and everything we do is directed to improving our performance before this public. Our action and theirs together serves to increase the total sociality. All action aims to grow the market of public and therefore political life. Aristotle realises that being must also mean action, and that there are different sorts of action over different time-scales. An account of action requires an account of the reciprocal relationship of action and the character and capabilities that enable it and derive from it. Actions occur with hierarchies of y of action, good action, social action and politics. Part of the purpose of talking about issues in public is to improve our performance, so we can make more and better truth statements. All speech and thought is for the sake of doing, and doing better, which means a more social and public doing. What we do determines what we want to do; it gives us our character, which in turn determines our desire. Man is the social and political animal the animal with language and intelligence. Aristotle knows that we cannot be examined just as a single body, abstracted from our relationships and interactions. Vital to who are is who we are trying to be and what we are trying to do. It is not just about our existence, but also about our effort (conatus striving) and the direction of that effort (orexis reaching for a specific something). We are intrinsically a bundle of impulses and drives towards goals. We cannot consider the drives apart from the goals towards which they directed. So we can consider man only in the light of his context, his peers and rivals, and of whatever he direct himself towards. We can only talk about being and existence in view of life and sociality, and we can about life only in view of its orientation and direction. Pure and practical knowledge There are two sorts of knowledge final knowledge, and in knowledge-in-process. There is knowledge of what, which we could call pure knowledge. It is gives us knowledge of objects, and so relates to (natural) science. And there is practical know-how, knowledge of how to. We could call this expertise. Expertise is a matter of skills, and a certain form of mind and imagination (technique), and of technology.


It is the issue of how to join things to together in order to make them work. It is therefore also a matter of making decisions. We have to gain a certain expertise and become a certain sort of people in order to acquire the first sort of knowledge, knowledge of objects. We have to balance the claims of knowing and , versus searching and finding out. or pure versus practical knowledge. We have to make decisions, and it is better to have more rather than less knowledge to help us make the right decision. But knowledge, or science, does not make our decisions for us. We therefore two distinct but inseparable issues of sciences and skills. Skills include those characteristics that we have called strengths or virtues.

7. The Priority of Love and Intellect

Socrates and Plato insist that the concept of love is essential to understanding the universe. The unity of the cosmos is more fundamental than any other aspect of it. For Plato each thing participates in the thing above it, so every refraction or even a hyperlink to the thing above it. The only complete thing is the cosmos as a whole. We exist to the degree we are drawn by love. If we have some conception of love, we understand that each entity seeks something outside itself, and that everything does indeed intend to hold together. If we do not assume this, we cannot assume that the universe has any coherence, or that it is possible to make any sense of it. If there is no (single) whole, nothing makes sense, and no talk about the universe makes sense. There would be no point in searching for that sense or testing alternative accounts of it; our habit of reasoning would never have evolved in the first place. We can only debate and think because there is in fact meaning and coherence out there. According to Plato and Socrates Love is at the top of the universe, and we are all fractions of it that seek to be re-united with the whole. The fractions love the whole. Love appears to be an impersonal force of attraction, like gravity. According to the discussion in the Symposium, Socrates thinks love is a form of madness and helplessness. It is involuntary. We are moved by love despite ourselves. Love not only attracts us up, but obliges us upwards, by golden threads. We are loves prisoner. Christians by contrast point out that it is persons who love. Love does not love, for it is merely an abstraction. There is an encounter of two who are distinct from one another, not parts or aspects of one another. Love can only be two or more distinct entities who can encounter one another. Persons may love when they are free to do so. God is free, and therefore free to love. God may love man and may love God, and do so as a free agent, not under necessity. Aristotle has a reduced account of this love, and so is less ambitious about setting out the coherence and motive of the whole. Aristotle and the stoics and even more the epicureans give us increasing abbreviations of the account. These abbreviations are good for specific purposes. But they cannot help us to talk about various aspects of the cosmos, or of our knowledge of it, relationship to one another. We confine reality to unrelated departments.


Socrates does not believe that what is good for him can be different from what s good for the city. He does not to distinguish his goals from those of his whole society. He regards himself as theirs, and them as his own. This is this social consciousness that Plato wants to promote through the education programme of the ideal city in the Republic and the Laws. He is intending to establish the belief of Socrates, that there is no gap between individual and many. If there is no playing off the one and the many there is no violence, no economics, no interests in which mine can be contrasted with yours, so there is no contrast to be made between knowledge and interests either. There is no division between the head and the body, intellect and passion, knowledge and will, knowledge and the object of desire. We may appear to stay here, but when this life, that is this life in this present world (eon), is over we will be promoted to the one above, in which we will also make a circuit. We can be advanced or relegated, move upwards or downwards. Some of us in this world, those of us ruled by our heads, intellectuals, no longer tugged by passions and the confused views of the mass, are ready to move up a class, in their succeeding life. This intellectual who feels the upward pull of love of wisdom (philosophia) learns to harden himself to discomfort and to the confusion registered by his senses. He learns to ignore all the confusion that constitutes the world we are immediately aware of, and to perceive the order above the disorder. He can anticipate the clearing of the fog, and to watch for the coming of order to the chaos. We have to look for what is general amongst the confusing and changing particulars.


1. Creation is the result of a lapse or failure. A series of lapses bring into existence a series of levels within the cosmos or a series of worlds. 2. We can consider the cosmos as though it were consisted of two worlds which we can contrast. The first is the original and superior, the second is inferior to and dependent on the first: World One
One, unitary Whole Motionless, Timeless unchanging truth divine

World Two
Multiple fragmentary flux bodies and materiality passion without control aggression confusion unpredictable lack of knowledge

The first world is identifiable with divinity or God, the second with creation and man. In this conception God and Man are not only opposites but enemies. On this conception God would be limited and threatened by something that is not himself; creation and man are alternatives gods, rivals to God. Thus, despite its intentions, God is not omnipotent and the pagan conception of God seems to contain a contradiction. 3. The universe is closed. The past is the origin of all things and it is normative. The present is a fall away from the past. The future can only be more of the same (repetition) or the process goes into reverse until the cosmos disappears and we achieve absorption and extinction. This is the worldview of fatalism. 4. What is valid of man is valid of society and the cosmos. It is a theory about a cosmic disaster and the fall of souls into materiality. Souls have to work their way back up by a series of reincarnations (metempsychosis). The conclusion is that we will all shed our individuality as we be absorbed back into the one. 5. The Greeks offer us a comprehensive theory of the pagan conception of life, and Plato gives us the most complete version of that theory. 6. How can we find the right teacher, who has the authority to give you the discipline you need, who is disinterested and will not hold you back for his own purposes?