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Preface to Plato

by Eric A. Havelock

Buy the book: Eric A. Havelock. Preface to Plato

Release Date: March, 1982

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Eric A. Havelock. Preface to Plato

Plato would substitute reason for emotionalism

Frequently I receive comments via the Internet some of which prove to be of value. One such was the Class of 2000/2002 that points out that these graduates have very little direct knowledge of even their recent past. It only proves that if they are to be enculturated, they must first be taught. In Plato's day, the means was by oral transmission, the effect of which was to perpetuate what might not be true. "Memesis," the total act of representation, that part of of our individual consciousness to which it is designed to appeal, is the area of the non-rational, of the pathological emotions, the unbridled and fluctuating sentiments with which we feel but never think. It is the affect imagery of emotion that hits us directly in the gut before being filtered through the brain, there to be digested before accepted. When indulged in this way emotion weakens and destroys that rational faculty in which alone lies hope of personal salvation and scientific assurance. Memesis is the "active" personal identification with which the audience sympathies and is enculturated because it is taught. He who cannot justify his own conclusions cannot be considered a totally educated person. Still, there is a need for guidance if the pupil is not to get in over his head and tend to drown rather than learn to swim and particpate for the good of all.

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The place to start with Plato

If you want to start with Plato, this is the place. Plato, through Socrates, indulges in a huge polemic. The problem with a polemic is that unless you have a clear idea of who he is arguing against and why you won't understand what is being said. Havelock's aim is to situate you in the ancient Greece of Plato's day and explain exactly what Plato is on about. Suddenly Plato doesn't seem quite so bizarre if you have some idea why he says what he says. Havelock starts with the tenth book of the Republic: why does Plato ban poets and poetry (especially Homer) from his utopia? Plato was no mean poet himself, so what does this mean? Havelock tells you in technicolor the why's and wherefore's of the historical situation so that you can read Republic (and the other dialogues as well) without flying blind.

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