Notes from Wasserman: Plato’s Republic

Class 1981/ 1983 GVSC

[In progress:]

Using Bloom’s Republic and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with brief modern contrasts at the conclusion, Wasserman furthered the project of Leo Strauss to recover ancient Socratic Political philosophy.

The torch of philosophy is being transferred in this from Germany to America, having come to Germany through France, Britain and Italy, from the Petrarchan recovery of the texts of Byzantium. The Hebrew American immigrants, having seen Germany seared, have yet been able to graft philosophy onto the native Americans, and we are seeing how this takes.

Class notes are difficult for a reader to decipher, and exclude much, including the note taker’s own participation and questions. I enjoy watching myself learn the importance of what is occurring here, gradually beginning to take study seriously in a new way.

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Dramatic contrast of ancients/moderns

“I see my teaching of philosophy that way”- Irv

Explicit repudiation of the ancients- Machiavelli/Hobbes/Bacon/Descartes

Mathematics- Descartes wipe the slate clear- of truth.

Skepticism endemic- That all must be “proven.”

Certainty- clarity, or else therew is no answer.

Political philosophy (as distinct from political science) (is) dead for all practical purposes.

Is Plato recoverable through modern eyes?


Start with the ancients in order to see what we said “no” to.

History. But Plato didn’t have history.

Context, yes, but relative to time, no.

What is justice? / What is Plato’s justice?

Through Polemarchus to Thrasymachus.

Lecture Friday January 16th, 1981

All of the dialogue is intentional.

Philosophy and political [philosophy appear inseparable.

[Jean] That none is superfluous. Take it as a whole.

There is no Platonic doctrine as ordinarily understood. [Ken]

Bloom renders in translation.

Concreteness and participation.

ancient/modern. Wasserman: specific characters, questions, answers. Socrates can’t give the answers. We don’t know if there is an “answer.”

Nothing concrete is a what (For man?)

We may have said no to a Plato that is not Plato.

Lecture Jan 19th Monday

It is not clear that philosophy….

Apologos. Speech on behalf of

presuppose- defense of philosophy To break the law

To question. That something has a nature. There

The city does have a case.

? Really. Truly. Best. The ideal

Consent. No one agrees as to what’s best.

“There has not been a coherent discussion on the nature of education in 10 years.” -I. Wasserman

Presocratics/ natural philosophers- atheism

City and poets v. natural philosophers (pre-soc.)

What is human and what is rational seem to be at odds.

Christ the philosopher/poet king?

Poet gives the peculiarly human answer of the city. Convention

Socratic questions. Is rational, (therefore) human.

Athens USA

The poet the natura;l philosopher ballet dancer

Question: How is philosopjhy like the ballet dancer?

Consent involves always a dilution of wisdom. Compromise

-Our standards don’t involve compromise

“For the ancients, the political is second best,but the second best is very very high.” -Irv

It sounds like a doctrine or ideology rather than coming from the inside

…[And then our modern political philosopher says “she shows emotion in public, Plato would says that is not very rational.


realizable republic

saying/doing= meaning, therefore write dialogues.

talking/ showing= meaning. Therefore write dialogues.

a) Polemarchus forced conversation

b) Why are people at the Piraeus? New goddess. Torchrace.

An innovation is Socrates (introduces new divinities)

Socrates must effect the gentlemen who are not philosophers; compromise between wisdom and power.

Rhetoric- the art of teaching better way.

Between powerless wisdom and unwise power; the city necessitates dilution.

Consent. You first have to get the approval of consent. Introduces the problem of rhetoric.

To coincide public opinion

Relationship of tyranny and wisdom.

In dilution

People have their gods, their ideas of justice

Necessitates compromise Falsity not necessary Dilution of tyranny. Degrees? truth.

Question of necessary dilution of wisdom

[p. 4 top: Question: What positive (assertions) does Socrates say?]

Tyranny enters into being by appealing to the people. [margin: true that… is it true that]

Falsity, tyranny, is…may not be diluted

Truth wisdom question?

Is it a character of the falsity that it is not diluted i.e., worshiped?

Auth. city ordered to quest.

or quest to city auth [Is the authority of the city ordered to the question or is the question ordered to the citie’s authority]

answer, truth does not mean it does not endanger the city.

He wouldn’t leave Athens to save his life

He is a friend of the city. He expressed this in the apology.

Tomorrow- answer questions in a more responsible way., take the path of Socrates and Allan Bloom.

Thrasymachus: Isn’t that the answer to the question of justice that is most prevalent now?

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