Notes from Irving Wasserman: On Plato

[In progress]


   The nearest semblance we may have to what Plato did regarding Socrates may be to try to collect notes from the classes of our greatest teachers, so that despite the unstateable truth of the living word and the introduction to philosophy in the circumstance, what has occurred might in somehow be preserved.

   There are reasons not to do this sort of thing, yet these seem outweighed by the reasons to do it, and next. I feel indeed like Apollodorus at the opening of Plato’s Symposium, coming to a friend or two with a speech of the philosopher. Wasserman did not write, but then, neither did Socrates, though they both took education through conversation and the greatest books with the utmost seriousness.

   One would wish to communicate the excitement of philosophy in those days, as we had studied psychology and evolutionary biology in search of the beginning of the way, or what we would call the way to the way, an “apprenticeship.” We wound up seeking a “psychology of consciousness,” and at the same time, the depths and heights of Jungian psychology. It is here, when our mentor James Blight, Historian of Freud, went off to Harvard, that we found Irving Wasserman, as though in the corner of a philosophy department in a corn field in Western Michigan.

   Notes from classes are in a way one’s own, what he was able to glean of what occurred and what was said. We mix in our own thoughts, and summarize in our own words, while trying to record triggers for memory of whole accounts. Separate thoughts of my own triggered by the lectures, I would later set off to the right, underangle or pediment. The first class to transcribe would be that called “Plato,” as it was in 1980, and then again in 1982, taught in the Ancient division to be followed by Medieval and Modern, sections for which each in a remarkable department would produce the best of the studies in their satchel,  In 1981 and then again in 1983, he did a class called “Political Philosophy,” in which we read Plato’s Republic and Shakespeare’s Tempest, and these would be most worth transcribing from the notebooks which may otherwise be soon lost in the mists.

We’ll see how this goes:

Plato 1980

The opening is “Why Plato wrote dialogues”]

1) Bring Socrates to us

2) Promise of insight, sobering significance

3) Plato never speaks directly to his reader

[Quote from 7th Letter] 4) “Concerning these things there is no written work of mine, nor will there ever be, for they cannot be expressed in words…”

Therefore there is no Platonic doctrine?

Plato wrote dialogues because of this.

“Mystical?” God help us!

Dramatic discourse precludes that philosophical wisdom

[Concretism   Showing and telling (Donahue) [ I seem to be recalling a saying of a High school English teacher, Mr. Donahue, on the distinction between telling someone something and showing them.]

6) Philo (sophy) carries implications for actions

9) The philosophic endeavor begins with a dilemma + admission of profound ignorance. ? Who knows

Philosophy is dangerous

Is it good to be gadflied, unsettled?  [yes- self knowledge faith

^ (change)                wisdom- Prove it. Insanity?]

“Never dig a pit for a student that you cannot fill” [ a saying from tho. Aquinas]

Definitions abstract dangerously from the context

Philosophy can end only with a personal conclusion

Dialogues are Plato’s resolution to the paradox that philosophy cannot be written

Plato’s solution of the paradox of the writing of philosophy

The reader

a) excitement of radicals who dig conflict

b) fallacious arguments are dramatically significant

c) The written word knows not to whom it should speak. -(Phaedrus).

inflexible, fixed.

[p. 2] Top: Dialogue relates learning to living

Living word can function in context of relationship (symbol: sideways 8)

DB asks: Why is a dialogue less limited than a treatise?

Empatyhy- understanding- To climb into Socrate’s barefeet

“I see a dialogue as painting a picture

Treatise: bare facts “What is it that happened to you” [-Wasserman]

The speaker who can empathize his audience.

*To enshrine forever the greatest and the rarest things, deeds

*Fossilized ideas which come alive.

*Plato wrote for Socrate’s immortality.

To combine the power of spoken and written word to overcome the limitations in each.

In the dialogue, Socrates in 1980 still knows when to speak

Choose according to interest

One must participate directly in philosophy to understand

Abstract statements can only be understood in context.

Q[uestion] of the unity of Plato’s thought

Don’t presume [arrow] ideas of (~ unity) stages of Plato’s thought

*Exoteric- ostensible meaning

Esoteric meaning also (~literal)

[p.3] R. Gustavson: “funny that (Euthyphro) thought men and gods have the same standards.”

Euthyphro- Q of the gods- what if you don’t Q[uestion] the gods?

Trial- ” [Question of the gods]

Socrates “The right way is…” with rational backing; considering

similar value, rat[ional] argument produces objective ethic

There are paradigms in…

An art/ paradigms paradigms paradigms paradigms paradigms.

There is much more than content and process.

Conscience- daimon never tells Socrates what to do

Only interferes when he is inclined to get get excessive.


Divine law/ Athenian law

P. 24: Plato’s theory of the Ideas [G edition of Euthyphro].

s-self [a picture is drawn: head with arrows out the eyes straight ahead and out the eyes, around front and over. Another arrow, a not equal sign, another arrow curving out around and down, = impiety. [Self knowledge and reflection does or does not equal impiety]

Soc. remaining on a formal rather than theoretical level

logic/ definition

Euthyphro fills the content

A drawing of a man out of a heart with dividing lines (quite a nice doodle- there are many on these pages, which means that time was occupied listening and musing) with the words to the left: I am that which is: Atman/Brahman

[p.] 25: “I shall tell you a great many other facts about our religion”

That which makes all pious actions pious (?)

“You can’t define anything that way-” -Wasserman

I write: Because one is then dealing with nature itself ?

“It is because they disagree about some action that some say it has been done rightly and others wrongly

Even if all x is wrong

What is piety>? Impiety? What is the predication

x is that which is

hierarchical abstraction of a verb  a process  -being  abstraction

That which one comes across in the search for self-knowledge.

It is like the wind, to try an to catch, not to catch, like Donovan’s wind.

[p. 5] Top: Where there is piety, there is moral rectitude But where there is moral rectitude there is not always piety.

an art of knowing what to give and what to ask for

Shattering of self-confidence to open the way to true wisdom.


Piety is what I am doing now (definition mistake)

  • Euthyphro sets himself up as the measure of all things

Definition in gods who disagree about good and evil (perfection)

contradiction   removed (arrow)    all gods love is pious

what is pious or holy is loved because it is pious (~ is ~)

4. Euthyphro silent

Socrates- Piety is that part of justice which attends to the care of the gods

The good would have to provide a norm for gods, rather than be what the gods do.

By making piety part of the just, he leads Euthyphro to

What do the gods do

The good-the light

Because irt can’t turn on agreeing at all

[Do not define quality

What is the process. definition.

[head with self-reflecting arrow] The good is that which is found by light.  There is light and dark which never [triangle: “…changes.”

objection %. degree light/dark, man is both…

…is indefinable…]

Piety is part of the just means that not all of the just is pious.

[p. 6]

Lecture of Friday                     Of essence- its not that we know better now, but that it                                                             is different now.

All the virtues are one

That which results from light

Last words on the Euthyphro

Piety is pleasing to all the gods

consists in service to the gods which is not a barter.

Service is an art which involves knowledge.

Every art involves knowledge.


Every pious act is just, but not every just act is pious: [Circles drawn, the just around the pious.]

What Socrates is doing here are pious

The dialogues are an exhibition of Socrates’ piety.

[Piety is an aspect of being, being is impredicable.]

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