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Tuesday, February 25

February 25, 2014
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WWTWWT: Today we talked more about Plato. Specifically, two of his ideas: the concept of universals and the concept of innate knowledge.

For the first concept, we read a short handout about the Ring of Gyges. It sounds a lot like a certain One Ring (though we don’t know for certain that it inspired LotR). This is a passage from Plato’s Republic, and featured a character named Glaucon debating with Socrates about virtue. Glaucon’s position is that we’re only good when someone is watching us — which is to say, when it’s to our benefit. According to Glaucon, if a person had a ring like this one, which could make its wearer invisible, even a “good” person would use it for their own ends eventually. And this is because, in Glaucon’s view, there really isn’t any absolute morality — it’s just a concept man makes up and enforces, sometimes arbitrarily.

Socrates (whose words are written by, and probably reflect the views of, Plato), argues against this idea, and in favor of universals — in this case, a universal standard of what is good. He makes the case that even a person who acts in his self-interest by using the ring is doing something bad — because that person eventually becomes a slave to his desires. And that is something, he argues, that we can all agree is bad. (Again, it sounds a lot like LotR.)

Universals are going to be a big deal as we make our way through history in this class. Do they exist, or don’t they? Plato argues that they do because he’s already identified the place where they reside: the realm of Ideal Forms. We recognize “goodness,” he would say, because an ideal version of it exists in this realm.

We also recognize “goodness,” Plato would say, because we’ve already encountered it. More specifically, our souls have encountered it, in this realm of Ideal Forms. This puts Plato on record as 1) believing that we have immortal souls, which precede our bodies and survive their death, and 2) believing that we have innate knowledge that comes from this realm.

This sort of knowledge — knowledge that precedes our existence — is called a priori knowledge. (Knowledge we gain after we’re born would be called a postertiori knowledge.) Everyone we talk about this semester didn’t agree that there is such a thing as a priori knowledge. But Plato did; it’s why one of his best-known sayings was, paraphrased, “Learning is a process of recalling.”

For Thursday: we’ll start with a quick quiz about our two days with Plato. Probably a notecard-type thing.

Adaptation: Today we had a good discussion of TML’s “12 Fallacies” reading assignment. If you didn’t do the response, do it and give it to Mr. LeRoy tomorrow. Remember that there are not many grades for this class, and a few of you are really falling behind. I’ll update your grades next week and talk to you about where you’re at.

Siren: Worked on March and April simultaneously. All March copy should be in, unless you’re covering something that happens after this date.

Film Studies: Today we talked about your responses and then your reactions to Close Encounters… and ET. Your responses to ET were collected (along with the notes). If you have not handed in either of the responses so far, you will want to do so ASAP. A few of you are falling dangerously behind. It’s still relatively early in the semester but, as we discussed and as you should already know, every grade counts.

Bookbinding: Today you finished up your hardcover booklets and started on the next project (long stitch). No homework.

8th Grade: Review game. Next week: cultural literacy final. In the second half we watched “Penny For Your Thoughts.”

Survey: CNF: Today I gave back the quizzes from last week. We read, and listened to David Sedaris reading, “The Youth In Asia.” We talked briefly about what it means — both focus-wise (it focuses on the deaths of Sedaris family pets, but also on instances where pets were replaced with other pets, and when pets were used to replace family members) and theme-wise (best answer: Can pets be replaced, or can pets replace people? And what does it say about us if they can?)

I also gave you a definition that is important. Libel is something that is:

1. Written

2. Demonstrably untrue, and

3. Potentially harmful to a person’s reputation.

For tomorrow: We will have CNF Wednesday and then Screenwriting Thursday and Friday. For tomorrow we will go back to your greatest fear cards.

For next Tuesday: please read the chapters titled “Truth and Fact” and “The Creative Nonfiction Police” in your textbook.

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