Applying the Fales’ Method to Current Events

For me the two books we have just read raised a question How to do the right thing. Both books emphasize that acting is important. Dimock tortures us with the need to act and how to know what the right thing is. Kierkegaard focuses on how to know what the right action is. I have struggled with those questions ever since my teenage years and continue to struggle with them today at 72. The first piece I read on how to know what the right thing is (in a philosophy course in high school) was Plato’s The Euthyphro, in which Socrates questions a young Athenian aristocrat who is prosecuting his own father for binding and throwing one of his slaves in a ditch, where the slave eventually died unattended. Socrates wants to know how Euthyphro knows he is doing the right thing. The dilemma associated with this dialogue occurs when Euthyphro proposes that he knows because the gods inform us about what is good. Socrates counters with whether what the gods say is good simply because the gods say so or whether the good is something independent of the gods which they are privy to. I was reminded of this dilemma in our discussion of Fear and Trembling. It is difficult for me to relate to Abraham, precisely because he appears to be doing his god’s bidding by accepting apparently that the right thing to do is what his god directs him to do. If this is faith, then I do not have faith. In contrast, in a late work Parmenides Plato presents a theory of knowledge, developing what he says in The Republic. One of my philosophy professors in college, Robert S. Brumbaugh, is famous for his exegesis of Parmenides. Brumbaugh applies Plato to social and political issues.

When Plato writes about the evil consequences of legislators who see their bank accounts as their first responsibilities, .. there is a prescience which we  should not ignore. And in an age, like ours, of explosively increasing individualism and specialization, we might do well to reread Plato, bearing in mind two of his most central political thoughts: until policy makers are also philosophers, there is little hope for the happiness of mankind; and only the person who can see the picture of all things in their interconnection, synoptically, can become a good philosopher.

Here is a link to Brumbaugh’s book, Platonic Studies of Greek Philosophy: Form, Arts, Gadgets, and Hemlock. While this is a Google sample, it does contain Brumbaugh’s central thesis – found where you scroll past Neville’s preface to Brumbaugh’s introduction. The relevance to what we frequently talk about in our club, including the political situation, is right there on page 9.

What I recall from his lectures (more than 50 years ago!) as being relevant to what we are discussing is that we can gain answers to what is good by love – love of the One, the unity of knowledge. One comes to know the Good by a achieving a direct relationship to the Good. To develop this relationship requires study of philosophy – of logic and aesthetics among other subjects – and hard work. This sounds like Theo Fales!

I know we are just a book club, but such a book club! With nearly everything we have read since I joined, I come away thinking about how to view the world and how to act in the world. I had planned in this note to suggest by way of a real example how one might use Fales’ method to decide how to act in the face of the events in Syria, in particular how to react to the actions of our president in responding to the gassing of civilians in Syria. But it was becoming a huge project to fill in the Master Narrative, Historical Subjects, Seven Truths and Four Constructive Pairs – Let alone to construct musical notes. I will never complete that exercise, but I certainly will carry with me the ideas of putting a thing in its context richly, as both Fales and Kierkegaard did, before deciding what is right to do and then acting on that decision short of certainty, perhaps bordering on absurdity, but with a commitment commensurate to my understanding born of the struggle.

This entry was posted in 2013 Selections, Fear and Trembling, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Times. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Applying the Fales’ Method to Current Events

  1. Mohsen Mirghanbari says:

    “A Old Man Will Visit You Someday And That Man Will Be You”

    Well said Richard, you have practically headed it on the nail describing the good and evil of most men and women, however, it seems while the adult mankind seeks answers for his own demise, he or she place the burden of proof upon the youth for his or her own adulating failures. Let me elaborate, “The child is the father to the man” a poem by William Wordsworth: My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; so be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die’ The child is the father of the Man; And I could wish my days be Bound each to each by natural piety. What Wordsworth had in mind with these lines is the idea that a man’s passions, interests, curiosity, and penchant for awe and wonderment are born in youth and run unserved thread into adulthood. While some adults forgot the childlike joy of their younger years, Wordsworth believed it was still within them to be rediscovered. “Looking back, a man really has a more objective feeling about himself as a child than about his father or mother. He feels as if that child were not the present he, individually, but an ancestor; just as much as ancestor as either of his parents. The saying that “the child is the father to the man may be taken in a sense almost the reverse of
    that usually given to it. The child is the father to the man” in the sense that his individuality is separate from the individuality of the grown-up into which he turns. At a certain point of our lives, we all experience the phenomenon of “The person we were as a boy and a young man and will began to seem like another individual, rather separate from our own grown up self. (see “John Kerry” the Vietnam war ejector “1972″ appraising Syria’s Assad “2009″ and wanting to dismember him “2013″) It’s a strange thing to experience, It’s not that we lose our memories of our past, or necessarily let go of our youthful ideals and traits that Wordsworth cherished, but simply that our boyhood self and our current self come to seem two distinct individuals.

    Why does this cleaving between youth and adulthood occur? Surely some of it can be chalked up to simple passage of time, as we grow older, our memories, and thus the attachment we feel to our past, become hazier. That may also hold true with the success of the material world people, as they would answer along the lines of extraordinary inherent rights, “And they would be wrong”. And is that truly one of many God-given gifts of characters in the Odyssey? We’ve decoded human DNA and discovered our place in the Universe- but we still marvel at the abilities of hierarchy in the same way the ancient Greeks did. So, “call in the inspired bard, Demodocus” “God has given the gift of Song” Then again imagine this, The blind bard singing the story of Troy in front of an audience, because the story brings back painful memories. My own personal struggles for the good and bad is not with the evil humans inflict upon one another, but how we have become to accept the above as statistics of ratios of our modern living society, and while the modern society displays the intentions to positive progress toward the good, the unexplained acting of evil overrides all of the above, then perhaps less of acting and more action is the more appropriate to bring greater balances to our good and bad balance sheet. Surly we humans are capable actors of both the good and the bad, however, we cannot explain “Why We Lie” tucking our memories in “The Away Place” thus refusing “The Pedagogy of The Oppressed” while justifying the “Assassination” of the good in us all, and at the end we forget that we too all become “Stiff Cadavers”.

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