The quarrel between philosophy and poetry
|Kennedy James @ Fogged Clarity/|
Mark Chou considers the limits of our rational lives @ Griffith Review.
Plato tells this story. Set in 433 BCE, it has as its backdrop an Athenian city-state at the peak of its renown and yet facing a precipice; a war of disastrous proportions is brewing across the Peloponnese and, unknown to the citizens of Athens, a plague will soon devour the city and its inhabitants. Plato’s story recounts a quarrel between an elderly sophist by the name of Protagoras, after whom this dialogue is named, and another man we know as Socrates, still a relative unknown at the age of thirty-six.As it unfolds, the nature of their dispute becomes clear. Protagoras and Socrates are discussing how, if at all, we can attain control over our lives. What, they ponder, would it take for human agency to outfox human vulnerability? Why are some moral laws, for instance, universally capable of guiding life both now and in future while others not? And how might we safeguard the public affairs of the city from the irascibility of private emotions?In other words, they’re quarrelling over how human beings can actually limit the role that fate plays in our lives and whether we can ever know reality definitively, quantitatively, scientifically?read more