Monday, February 28, 2011

Examined Lives from Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller

Earl and I are hosting a dinner to discuss the book.  We have room for eight people (including Earl and me).

Unless someone drops out, we have room for only one more.  Here is our tentative list:
John, Joyce, Bill, Earl, Julie, Fred, Susan

As I have done in the past, we will discuss nine topic questions for approximately 10 minutes each.  Earl and I have a round table that will seat 8 people.  Earl will be making dinner.

Here are the tentative topic questions--if you'd like to add one--please email it to me or add it at the comment section on the blog.

1. If a philosopher's life is the pits, does that damage his philosophical theories?
2. If one of your star pupils becomes an ass, does that mean you're a bad teacher?
3. Was it admirable that Socrates took the poison calmly?  Should he have fled?  Shouldn't self preservation be important?
4. It was interesting to me that Miller said that Plato advocates the teaching of mathematics because it increases our ability to think in abstract terms.   That seemed to be one of the themes of the book: intuition versus rational thinking.  Here is a quote from near the end of the book "Nietzsche became familiar with the whole range of ancient Greek philosophers whose extraordinary power to think intuitively rather than logically he admired."  Where do you stand?
5. Aristotle believed that "God and nature create nothing that does not fulfill a purpose."  I believe that is called teleological.  Do you agree with that premise?
6.  A couple of these philosophers defined God in a way that seems to be at odds with the common Christian definition.  Do you think they were doing that because their head and gut were at odds?  To protect themselves from harm?  Or do you think they were truly trying to address something that they felt intuitively?
7. This was another theme that seemed to run throughout the book. Is the purpose of philosophy to achieve tranquillity or to exercise your intellect or a preparation for wisely wielding political power or a necessary precondition for eternal salvation?
8. Do you think actions speak louder than words?  In seems that Montaigne did not.  Here is a quote:  My actions, Montaigne writes, would tell more about fortune than about me.  It is not my deeds that I write down; it is my essence that I write down.
9. Do you think people with less needs are happier?  Miller says that Kant said this about Rousseau:  the good man, having few needs, will by nature be content with little, but since modern societies multiply our needs, the minds of most men become disquieted and uneasy. Rousseau, like Diogenes, renounced modern society as corrupting and went in search of the truly good man.

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