Notes from Irving Wasserman: On Plato (1980-1982)

[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?

Empathy- understanding- To climb into Socrates’ 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 Socrates’ 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 it 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.]



As opportunity allows, I will try to copy all my notes from Wasserman, here from the second Euthyphro, where we are better note takers, though not enrolled in the class. Here, I may have missed class 1 or taken the notes in a different book…

Question of David about the spark

“Something the soul is in possession of after years of the best life.””He says, after many years and much toil.”

What is the spark

The dialogues make that kindling or spark available. The spark and not philosophy, but what it seeks.

Clarity beyond distinction. “Apparently, there is a something

A matter of seeing. Nous. “That is the one.”

With the mind’s eye.

Apparently philosophy is precluded from expression in written form.”

What then follows about the dialogues.

Dialogues. dialectic. Fire, spark.

Socrates calls Meno lazy. Lazy logos-holy logos.

Apparently, one has to “do” philosophy. Most active kind of enterprise.

Socrates says, “Let’s return.” Euthyphro, “No, can’t. ” Euthyphro takes off. He has something else to do. The4 time involved- most or many cannot. “I have to plant my field.”

Jerry: Capacity or nature? Or chance?

The million meanings of “just so many words.”

“It takes a certain kind of courage.” Dangerous…to the city.

What is love.

P. 1. 9 Archons, that is the king Archon in charge of religious matters.

To coolly assess the significance or what it is that happened.

These two years past [yes, the summer is gone. It has been two years]

Public charge (Euthyphro private. there because pollution is involved.)

Effects the city. For irreligion. Murder is a private offense.

p.2 Euthyphro a friend to Socrates? In the same boat?

Prophet, soothsayer, predictor. Not the city’s view.

Prophet and religion-Euthyphro-city. Philosophy-Socrates.

They laugh at Euthyphro, but prosecute Socrates. Ritual purification by “bringing him to justice.”


September 14, 1982

Ascent and descent

Will of God is good. Good because willed, or willed because good?

What does that man see in his mind when when he speaks on participation and exemplar.

Zeus is Euthyphro’s exemplar. [A triangle with arrows is drawn showing that Euthyphro, Socrates, and the city/Meletus are three different things.

Socrates’ life depends upon it- it is not a “theoretical” discussion.

“If you wish, Socrates.” Not because Euthyphre sees that you must asdk this; but the theologian Euthyphro has never reflected a moment in his life about the nature of piety. He has the gods, and need not.

Piety is what is pleasing to the gods…. but the gods disagree. Disagreement, not about counting, but about justice and injustice, causes quarrels. If they quarrel at all, they quarrel about justice. Whatever is pleasing to the gods is also displeasing.

-All agree that the unjust man should be punished.

*cannot define a thing in terms of what is being done to it.

That person has to do something to see it and possess something that will make him pious.

Repeating something he has heard or saying something that is his?

[The Big Question] Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?

[It’s like] Whatever piety and impiety is, it is pleasing to the gods; cannot define in terms of a passive characteristic. What is a horse? Those things you ride in the hunt. It is loved by the gods because it is pious; it is not pious because it is loved by them. Then, piety and what is pleasing to the gods are different things.

[2020: As a horse and those things one rides are different things? No, but as what a horse is is not defined or determined by one’s rind it. One rides it because it is a horse, it is not a horse because one rides it. “Whatever it is, go get on that thing!”]

An effect which belongs to it: Whatever it is, it is pleasing to the gods.

Frustration point. p. 14

[Top of note page 3 margin a big Question mark: Doing God good? Making the universe more unified. “What do the gods want from us? God’s Anima. God’s Amour. Love is the longing for the good, for completeness. If God is good, God does not need us. But the complete soul is more capable of love- desire to do the better, the more desire to do good. Good.

A large circle [J] is drawn with a small circle [P] in it: Agreement that P is a kind of just action.

J=Virtue. Genus and species, all p is j. All j is ~p.

[A similar circle is drawn with F and r, fear and reverence.

Euthyphro is fearless.

Honor reputation-     Questions of fear and re3verence.

Reswistance of the attempt to make things more precise than is necessary foer the purpose.

Necessity of agreement. The spirit of dialectic. Not trying to win an argument.

Careful attention which ought be paid to the gods is p.

J: ”                 ”                              ”                            man is p~J

Art: what attention horses,dogs tending-as if an art?

(piety man takes care of himself)

Chaotic gods. Utterly incoherent notion of the gods.The gods can’t be l;ike that.

Just because Zeus did it makes it good?

Master servant same question


What then is service to the gods? Peak: “There are many grand results” not “THE result. Well, what is the principle result?

[p.4 Top marigin: Is it good for all that is to be one? All that is is not one because thi9ngs can be made better. Piety benefits not thwe gods, but us. All good things.]


acceptable to the gods, preservesd the statwe and private familites

Piety caring for the gods art technae

A science of prayer and sacrifice.. Knowledge? Asking and giving. Bartar,.

19) Art of carrying on business between gods and men

What are the gifts that we give to the gods.

*IS piety a part of justice?

Is the dialogue inconclusive because piety is not a part of justice.

Notes on Euthyphro further…

[p. 5] Apology

Top: Socrates distinguishes himself from all other Athenians.

Was Socrates’ conviction and sentence outrageous, or did the city rightly condemn him to death?

Who understands the excellence of a man and a citizen?

[David Harrison] Who knows what is human excellence

It is the Q


Man and city distinct. Under what circumstance would the two coincide?

*The good man seems to transcend all cities.

Apology: Man tried by the city

Socrates, the embodiment of philosophy

Apo-logos account, reasoned account of behalf of. Explanation of. closer to defense of

accomplished. clever. demos. range from terrifying to coherent.

…someone who speaks the truth [Ho who knows he knows nothing will speak the whole truth]

The whole truth  No dressing (p. 22) warns the crowd. Truth, that is what is required of both a judge and a good orator.

Why do we look at Socrates as if we would acquit him?

He is a foreigner in the law courts, though Athenian. Insulting. Isn’t this insulting?

Truth won’t be persuasive. Rhetoric is all they’ve heard all their lives. He’s never talked that way, that’s why they are strangers.

He’s going to present something they have never heard before.

*The beauty is not on the surface.

It’s whats right for the men and maidens, what’s right for the polity. For man/for city.

What is piety/what is Athenian piety.

Here is Irv distinguishing between virtue as [Americans (?)] and as man.

Divides accusations into present and past.

Prejudice. Older, false accusations. Investigates into heavens and below the earth.

-like philosophers- (presocratic) of nature. Cosmologists- in ter=ms of matter and motion.

*Same type of explanation nowadays. Aristophanes*

Makes weaker appear stronger. Like orators, Sophists

Anaxagoras Nous

Descartes shrewd God. Before mathematics, not needed for…inquiry into nature.

Descartes’ God is nothing. God didn’t tell anything about how to live.. Universe devoid of value.

Aristophanes defender of the city.-

Teaching from Euthyphro


Clouds- Socrates portrayed as Atheist.

Sparring with shadows at the prejudice. In a basket in the clouds swinging around.

Meletus and Aristophanes both poets. Anytus prominent in the city.

“Socrates is guilty of engaging in inquiries into things beneath the earth and in the heavens, making the weaker argument appear the stronger, and teaching others these same things.”

I’m going too fast. Can’t go too fast, like a scientist, straight tot he truth.

Opinion. Language, in touch with reality.

Common sense is always in touch with divinities, (the city)

Always finds limitations in opinions, attempts ascent.

Then it is an important question. How does he answer these charges?

So[crates?], question, always question about the human things, improving the soul.

“I do not mean to disparage that kind of knowledge if there is anyone who is wise in these matters.” Always pro pursuit.

Teacher? No, I don’t take any money, or teach like the Sophists

Arts are taught. Horseman- rhetoric

Fluteplayer- wrestler.

Teachers of rhetoric, persuasion. To live well.

Gain the impression you could achieve any end by persuading.

*To Euthyphro: “If people will listen to you.”

Sparta wouldn’t allow the sophists to enter.

*Socrates never seems to learn anything from these dialogues.

*As a math teacher, the best math teacher, who wouldn’t claim to know the last things about mathematics.

*He can’t say the last thing he would about the human soul.

p. 25 a certain kind of wisdom. Human wisdom. Not really wise.

C. Penn: “What would Socrates say to a nihilist?

Opinions. Descartes Universal doubt only to save from the flames of doubt.

Inadequate fragments exemplified in the dialogues.

Thematic in Meno

Aristophanes and the poets.

Power- makers of the city, images of gods, Good/bad man, beginning and end.

Sophists ~ artisans do not practice the art they claim to. Apollo is the oracle at Delphi.

Reliance on the priestess. (He relies often on the beliefs of the city) (As divine things [arrow] gods. Apollo is “The god.”

No one is wiser than Socrates. Could mean many things. The oracle was famous for that. Could mean not that Socrates is wiser than everyone.

-all are equal in wisdom.

Oracle has not declared that Socrates was wise.

What is wisdom. I am not wise.

The truth of what the oracle is saying is what follows.

Socrates set out to prove the oracle is false. Ends up setting out to prove it right.

*Socrates is boasting.             [Is the pursuit opf wisdom useless?]

No one is wise including Socrates.

Politician. Classical terms. Statesman, like Lincoln

Poet.  creators of religion, images, like John, Matt Mark and Luke


To see that you don’t know what you thought you knew. is necessary if you are ever going to come to know.. Before they begin, this has to happen.

[recall one year ago in this room B]

Its this turning point of every dialogue. This is the beginning of philosophy, unsettling, radical.

“What is” question.

No guarantee that it will ever be replaced by anything good.

Or even ever replaced- – – D[ifference]. bet[ween]. Ph[ilosophy]. and the city.



The crucial ingredient in every beginning.

[p. 9] Why wouldn’t Socrates go out and question the Sophists?

It is as if the educators were the poets.

Teaching is presumably an art.

Connection of sophists with artists. Presumably know

What the best life was.

How could a politician not live by public opinion? Lincoln struggled with that. all his life.

How do you face this and yet write a great play?

How can the ph[ilosopher] accommodate himself to the city?

Socrates in the Apology presents himself as the greatest friend the city has.

Republic- Can’t engineer it. It won’t work.

Strauss- can there be philosophy? Doesn’t its very coming into being present dangers [dangerous]

What is question

Those are already established for the city, and

can there be any living together? if that is Q[uestion] is open.

We take the Constitution to be self evidently true.

Freedom, 1st and 10th Amendments.

Philosophy-faith-doubt [drawn as three separate small circles connected by lines as in the model of a molecule.]

Medieval Ph[ilosophy] re-emerged in the city of revealed religion.

Islam rediscovered ph[ilosophy]?

[p. 10} [The} Old Testament was read by Maimonides that way. They reveal and conceal. We’ve lost the art of reading. It is like an enchanted garden, takes years to grow.

The outline.

I never appreciated the Old Testament.

Problem of shadows in translation. [An] of or a to? Neither are in Hebrew.


Service of the God.

Euthyphro, when Socrates took the lead, tried to locate Piety as a part of justice. Concerned with justice toward gods, not men.

Socrates’s quest is in the service of the gods. What is that great good thing that the gods wish of us in their service.

In service of the gods, Socrates is testing the oracle and [having] conversation[s]s with others

Uses this oracle as a clue to his whole life. Ph[ilosphy] as service to the God. Highest life, most pious life, service to the God.

What is Socrates doing, what is ph[ilosophy] That’s what the gods want us to do to serve them.

A Roman never had to decide whether he between being for Rome or for Jupiter.

Socrates is in the city but not of it. Ph[ilosophy] doesn’t try to make the perfect city on earth.

Hear is the answer.

Have the questions grow out of the text. Don’t go so fast.

[Notebook p. 11]

Translation: service of the God.

Obeying divine command Church)


Left with business transaction, giving gods what they don’t need, honor and praise, what’s pleasing to the gods.

“Herculean” labors. Heroes. Next: Poets * He’s describing his life as a substitute for the gods [heroes] of the poets

The heroic quest for nature. Bystanders and craftsmen understood the poets better than they themselves did.

Homer- poetry never separated from music. Homer wasn’t then studied as a text.

Greek chorus, whole play recited in lyrics, dythrambs. Broadened poetry to include all fine arts, theater, etc.

Bystanders would say common sensical things about their work. Poets are characteristically inarticulate. Of inspiration more than know how [or insight?]

Artists make it a virtue top NOT be able to know what it is. Not that they don’t do many great things., There is no substitute for the poets. They don’t do it knowingly, because of wisdom. They can’t say what’s good or bad in their work. They are taken to be wise. Provide the models for high high men, heroes, of wisdom. Responsible for popular conscience. It makes the people (regime) what they are. What is the source of their inspiration? What do they present?

Aristophanes- aids Athens, Socrates is endangering the city.

[Notebook p. 12] Top margin: What is the distinction essential between poetry and philosophy


they are the most admired. They’ll produce a frenzy, women worship them.

Because they do good art, they’re asked for other advice.

Follow them. Fashion.

Subject matter: about politics, drugs.

Transformed the whole consciousness of the young.

Therefore it is very important whether the poets have wisdom or not.

Homer thus has to be edited.

Charisma. What is this frenzy?


A good doctor is not a good man

Technae. Know how. They knew what I did not know.

Is there a supreme art, dialectical art, royal art, architectonic art, art that sees the interrelation between the arts and their place in the scheme of things.

Legislative art.

[The] God is really wise. By this oracle, he meant that human wisdom is worth little or nothing. Service of the good.

His whole life. Interrogation. Showing them not wise. Service of the god consists in that activity.

His life is a mission.

The charge against him is impiety; corrupting the young; other gods. True piety.

Learn you don’t know what you thought you knew. Then ask What is.

Philosophy. Love of wisdom.

Not fruitless. Yet pursuit is not possession.

Higher than private (family) and public life.

[Notebook p. 13] Top margin: a drawing of a face in profile with rays. What Is?= I know I know not

smartest thing to do is seek.

A life higher than the political life at its best.

or he would have [dealt in] public affairs.

location in the scheme of things.

No one could be a politician and last long.

Pleasure in seeing politicians, etc. embarrassed. Indignation. Get angry with Socrates, rather than themselves.

Into air and under earth, disbelieves in gods and makes the weaker argument appear stronger- stock charges.

p. 29 End of Old Accusers. Hmmm.

The interrogation of Meletus

“Socrates is guilty of corrupting the youth, and of believing not in the gods whom the state believes in, but in other new divinities

(~ what) Who improves the youth?   The laws.

What man? Who begins by knowing the law

Judges. All educate the young. Councillors, and ALL Athenians. Socrates alone corrupts them. Gets Meletus to say something absurd, foolish. Makes Meletus look foolish. Rather than defending himself:

Horsemanship. The majority harm horses. The craft of horsemanship does them good.

That you have never cared about the young in your life.

[Un-projects the accusation-]

Sophists claim to teach this art, knowing what human (?) consists in.

Notebook p. 14 Top: The Law and sin, Romans 7, Paul. Side margin: Would Socrates bring charges v. [against a] Sophist?

He gets agreement on something plain

And soon concludes something against the grain

The bad harm their associates; good do good

Then voluntary or involuntary?

No one makes anyone evil voluntarily

No one does harm voluntarily

Q What is corrupt

Looks like you don’t have to worry about the meaning of “corrupt.”

Relativism is introduced. Corrupt relative to the city.

“A just man wouldn’t harm anybody.”

Socrates replies by obliterating the distinction between frioends and enemies.

Criminal law involves the distinction between voluntary and involuntary

As sane and insane.

Criminals are like the insane, ignorant

Psychological health would do no harm.   Degrees of murder involuntary

Lowing the degrees of intentionality.

Distinction between “conscious of” and understanding, nous, knowledge

thought belief and knowledge.

One can think something to be in fact wrong and then do it, belief it’s wrong.

Socrates doesn’t answer the charge. But rather embarrasses Meletus.

Socrates gives the impression that everyone corrupts.

Philosophy [double arrow] city; If law doesn’t make sense, then the city doesn’t make sense.

Socrates corrupts the young buy teaching other gods.

Anaxagoras- Atheism Gods of the city. Yet freemen.  Atheism different than…

Meletus really believes that Socrates is a cosmologist; Anaxagoras

(Phaedo– Anaxagoras Nous or mind.

Disbelief in divinities and yet not disbelief in things pertaining to the gods?

[Notebook p. 15] Top: atheist/ new divinities

Things of gods/ no gods

Then addresses shame and death.

Heroes overcome the fear of death.

Comparing himself to Achilles. Achilles courage with a higher purpose.

Socrates’ courage in battle. Commander [double arrow] soldier. Disobeying the oracle.

To fear death is to think we are wise when we are not wise.

Achilles laments the fear of death.


Was Socrates’ conviction and death advantageous, or did  the city rightly condemn him to death?

Did Socrates deliberately offend the court and invite its conviction and sentencing to death If so, what was at stake, or why. Immoderation?

Is Plato inviting his readers to live and act like Socrates?Emulate him? Die in a similar way? yes and no.

If not, how are we supposed to live, according to the Apology?

  1. We’re not all Socrates.
  2. 2. Could not have a city of Socrateses.


What is the relationship between philosophy and the city? How can philosophy be responsible?

To the city he nmight look like a paracite.

The divine guide. Meletus’ new god introduced into the city.

Socrates presents himself as a demigod Daemon only restrains, kept him alive. So that he could live to do something much higher. Through all his extravagance, tyhe daimpn did not say no.

He never said anything to save his life. Invited death. This is what Meletus took to be…

[Jean Doyle] Conscience

[Notebook p. 16]

Daimon- Socrates’ eros, his love of wisdom, his pursuit of wisdom

Power within him, that’s the divine thing in him.

Gods have no eros because perfect.

Ignorance thinks it knows, no impulse for pursuit.

Intermediate kind of being.

[The] Obj[ect] of eros is to be complete.  [auch=as such?]

If so then this activity is auch [as such] dangerous to the city.

Holds him in check: Prudence from daimon

Is there an inherent danger in phiolosophy?

The voice doesn’t say no now. Why is this the moment Socrates ought take a stand and die?

He who would really fight for justice must do so as a private citizen. Councillor.


Socrates doesn’t think there should be no law against corrupting the young

No critique of this law in the interests of freedom of speech.

Is it necessarily a compliment that we wouldn’t punish Socrates?

Harm physical? Is that the only kind of harm?

Socrates is on trial for not believing in the gods of the state.

What did Socrates die for?

Don’t bring in children, again abstracts from t5he love of one’s own

To show justice.

[p. 17 is reading notes from Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, pp. 81-84]

Notebook p. 18 Irv on Leo Strauss

Strauss on Thucydides. Strauss on Meno.

“Wisest person and best teacher Irv’s ever met in the world.

Essay “What is political philosophy.”

Bloom’s translation dependent on Strauss

It isn’t clear that the ancients would ever be accessible to us without Strauss ex[ample] if we don’t recognize that Plato wrote dialogues, Plato is not accessible.

Plato put everything there knowingly- Issue of contradictions


Lecture Running summary of extracts

Scientific v. natural understanding of things.

“To study with Strauss was like a restoration of natural consciousness- like Plato

Committee of Social Science.

Chapter I: History/ Social Science: Two most powerful sources of the burial of natural right

In order to recover, we must divest ourselves

Social Science’s commitment to the f[act]/ V[alue] distinction; Historicism

To consider political things from the perspective of the common citizen

No philosophy ion the Old Testament,. no knowledge of nature.

The first philosopher was the first man to discover nature.

Philosophy is the discovery of nature.

Nature is not apparent; It must first be uncovered

The term nature

Custom or way.. Our way. rightness guaranteed by oldness

Way + first things= the right way

Right way must be divine law.

[Notebook page 19]

Questions answered before they are raised.

authority; law

[The] emergence of the idea of natural right presupposes doubt of authority.

Cephalus must leave before they can proceed.

[Margin: example of dialogues: Plato teaches by what happens]

*[The] quest for natural right replaces the torch race in honor of the goddess.

After the discovery of nature, the ancestral and the good become distinct.

Becomes the quest for what is good by nature.

emerged because of a) distinction between hearsay and seeing.

Dialectic- treatise teaching

Meno tells Socrates something he heard from Georgeous [Gorgias.]

Memory/ Recollection.

Not the idiosyncratic, but something available to man as man.

artificial and manmade distinct from natural things.

What man makes is for human purposes

thinking divine artisan

The discovery of nature is the actualization of a human potential that is trans-historical

(Trans-religious, trans-societical, moral [?]

Never exhaustive.

Philosophy as the quest for the first things presupposes that the first things are always.

and imperishable; First Things

More truly being

The first things cannot have jumped into being out of nothing

Manifest changes would be impossible if there did not exist something eternal

Omnipotence means power limited by knowledge of nature.

Of unchangeable and knowable necessity. Once the natures are discovered, [the] custom of natural things are called their natures.

Nature must be discovered because it is hidden.

Law, authority, tries to hide nature..

Pre-Socratics were conventional. Sophists and pre-Socratics.

[Jerry B.]: The reason for law is that nature is not apparent.

Discovery of nature- the claim of the ancestral is uprooted.

Appeal to something older than all ancestors.

Nature is the mother of all mothers

Not based on residue of myth or unconscious borrowing from myth.

Art presupposes nature. Nature does not pre-suppose art.

That nature is THE authority.

The relation of reason to its objects is fundamentally different from obedience.

Ancient philosophy did justice to the underlying truth of the identification of the good with the ancestral.

Aristophanes’ Socrates would induce a son to beat up his father[s].

Socrates tried to show philosophy was not an enemy of the city. He stayed in the city.

[Notebook p. 21-28 is NRH notes, pp. 85-98; 114. Top: The right way has become the object of a quest.]

Notebook, p. 29 Top margin: Socrates and Thrasymachus both make the life according to nature the highest life. The question is what is the life according to nature.


By uprooting the authority, nature as the authority

Law as convention Soc[rates] bringing nature and law together

Nature as a term of distinction

What is the life according to nature?

Various cities (customs or ways) when good is identified with the ancestral

[C. Penn:] “When does convention arise?

When hearsay [arrow] seeing with ones own eyes

natural [arrow] manmade

Nature as a term of distinction. Acorn [arrow] oak tree is natural

Pig eats acorn, or on rocky soil

Back, in the life of the individual, or society too, a time which antedates convention

Biblical- man is perfect; state of innocence, and entirely responsible for his fall

What is so by contract has less dignity than what is so by nature-

The time bomb of modernity

Pre-Socratics- nature is still the standard.

Mod[ern] Hegelian- dirempt


Socrates forced philosophy to make inquiries into good and bad things.

Error of modern reading of Socrates

To ask “what is” of the human things

Eidos Socrates began from what is visible

[Margin: Beginning from opinion]

He tries to find out what they say it is. Then never crosses it out, but refines it.

[Notebook, p. 30]

The What is question.

How does the discovery of nature make the relation between philosophy and the city problematic?

What does the Apology reveal about Socrates’ answer to the problem.

What would the city be where the problem is disappears? Where the people would want him to rule? (Olympians).

1 authority doubted. Philosophy comes into being with the discovery of nature.

Pre-philosophic equivalent: custom or way.

Before the discovery of nature, the good and the ancestral were identified.

Love of one’s own. Mother and her son.

Nature, the first things, turns out to be trans-historical.

Philosophy, from the perspective of the city, looks like an innovastor

What is involves the whole. The city is always partial.


City cannot look at

“Whose to say” implies there is no one or nothing to say. Constitution isa deeper.

ex. Lincoln. Hero.

No one tries to live that way. Relativism cannot ber lived.

[arrow] science and history.

Ways contradict. Hearsay and seeing with your own eyes.

Changing law will destroy the regard for law as such.

[Notebook, p. 31 Top margin: Ultimate fundamental refinement of the meaning of philosophy.

To know, one would have to possess the whole. Socrates recognizes that he possesses only partially. Does he at all possess?]

2. Euthyphro

How does Euthyphro and Apology….Don’t leave out the most apparent things.

On the steps of the king Archon [ours every?] an indictment.

Appeared as a friend of Socrates, but really closer to Meno

Relies on the poet’s (cities) account of the gods.

City doesn’t like him because he interprets the gods in his own way.

What is piety?

Nature having been discovered [moderates] the entire dialogue.

serving the gods is an art which involves knowledge.

The what is question is always a part of the whole.

Because he does not possess the whole, Socrates says he knows he knows nothing.

What is pleasing to the gods is pious. What pleases the gods is piety, as it is.

The gods didn’t make piety….

Whereas the other means something that is good always, by nature.

The problem:

Socrates on trial. Verdict: guilty. sentence: death. The problem

Charges: Guilty of corrupting the youth, not believing in the gods of the city.

He tells the city that piety= philosophy. Gadfly. [doodle of a horse and fly]

The city can swat the fly

Picture of the afterlife: heaven is philosophy.

Because of the problem, the city and philosophy must both be moderate.

It goes to the root. No question [is] too embarrassing to philosophy.

Socrates goes to pains to show that he is the best friend of the city.

Why does… the city and philosophy need each other?

Socrates never abandoned the city.

[Notebook, p. 32 Top: Avoids subversion by never speaking in his own name]

Not stand up speak out for your ideals, die. Is that the teaching?

Dialogues make philosophy available in the best way, 1) for the potential philosopher

2) For the city.

To not hurt the city and to help those who will make the ascent to philosophy, and there, in a good way,, so that THEY won’t hurt the city.

Dialogue solves problems inherent in the written word.

-available to everyone. [  ] to say the same things to all. author is not there to apply stuff to particular situations.

Dialogues are not available to all, won’t speak to all.

-reveal the highest things only to a few.. Doesn’t read it once and conclude.

Show things more important than explicit.

Says something less plain to the casual reader. Ostensible and hidden meaning.

Its Plato never speaks in his own name- avoids thus the charge of subversion.

[Notebook, p. 33. Top: Meno. If practice and teaching add anything at all to nature, it is all 3. These seem to be reading notes, rather than class notes from Wasserman]

Meno is virtue acquired by teaching or practice                       teaching

or comes by nature or                                                                      practice

What other way?                                                                               nature

Soc: Oh, Meno….

Thessalians are wise- becoming rhetoric. Athenians- region of poverty.

Quid. Quale. Is virtue’s acquisition a quality of virtue itself?

Gorgias. M[eno]: Am I to carry back this report of you? Did he know?S[ocrates:] never met anyone who did. Remind me what he said. M: know how to administration (technae) of state

To benefit friends and harm enemies.. Care not to be harmed himself. Woman: keep house, obey husband. No lack of definitions. Relative to each age.. Swarm of virtues.. Example bees. same as bees.

Soc. And so of the virtues, however many and different they may be they have all a common nature which makes them virtues, aned on this he who would answer the question, what is virtue would do well to have his eyes fixed. [Nicht war?]

[Margin: Health: Man/ woman] does this (many virtues) apply only to virtue, or would you say the same of health? Size? Strength?* Or is the nature of health always the same both in man or a woman?

Meno: I cannot help feeling, Socrates, that this case is different from the others. State or house must be ordered with temperance and justice. All men are good in the same way, and by participation in the same virtues.

… p. 35 Torpedo fish.

[Notebook, p. 35 Lecture 1 Meno

Mr. Morfiord: The visible/Intelligible

Recollection [a doodle of a head] education; learning

Connor: Knowledge of virtue; distinction teachable and unteachable

comes from within from a force which can ‘t be taught.

[Notebook, p. 36 Top: Now virtue is service to God. Philosopphy, love of wisdom, is virtue. Philosophy =- service to God (~ Ph partake of ph by love and faith)] 

Different from other universals as [circle] differs from [rays].

Join. Road to Larissa. Right belief visible or intelligible.

Morford Two kinds of  invisible knowledge

Irv: Gift of the gods. The other alternatives shown untrue.

Teaching – But there are no teachers. (Therefore not knowledge.)

Practice- not by training

Nature- No, we would pick them out when they are young.

Something of art.

We want to read the Meno in a way Plato shows that w

We shouldn’t read the Men[o?]

Can’t read it without achieving self knowledge.

We were expecting to be told how we could get virtue.

What kind of gift of the gods?

[I had to laugh at myself because I was hanging onto an opinion; We were hoping to get an answer. To the Reader: Once in Irv’s office, I asked him, “So can virtue be taught?” He said something like: “Yes, and Socrates can teach it- But not to Meno!]

Because it is Arete, human excellence

[arrow] So, to hear you either got it or not; From divine dispensation.

What kind of gift of God?

Frank Connor: Innate characteristics. Born with them, by nature. The man who does not know has within him true opinions that he does not know.

[Notebook, p. 37 Top: Recollection is not teachable

Concludes that knowledge is dispensable. Right opinion or we get virtue through divine dispensation]

Irv emphasizes: Is the writer reading Plato as if he wrote dialogues? Or as teaching notions? “You discover marvelous things that way, but you wouldn’t be understanding Plato that way.

Let’s return to the simile.

Knowledge is not the guide in public affairs.

Kind of knowledge. -Not the kind that can be taught.

Good guidance. Right belief and knowledge. Right belief from divine dispensation.. Opinion and knowledge.

It concludes that right opinion is as valuable as knowledge.

Right opinion = knowledge as a guide to correct action.

Virtue is not the guide in politics. We all want opinion.

Lecture II Meno

Teaching, practice or nature. Divine dispensation? In combination is not said. Are they exclusive?

Pupil of Gorgias, taught just how to answer. Fearless, forthright manner.

Socrates, how does one get virtue? Is the question a challenge?

Socrates avoids answering directly. Doesn’t say many things.

Thessalians. Unjust, licentious city.

[Notebook p. 38 Top: Forms. my notion of them is as universality. Thessaly. Athens.

Bees. Distinction could point tio the whole (Bee from ` bee)

Problem of maintaining the heterogeneity/ homogeneity.

Looking for universals? To obliterate differences. Strength of woman is the same as strength as strength of a man

Meno keeps leaving out justly and unjustly for power. Virtue or a virtue?

Figure is the only thing which always follows color.

* I would rather that you answer Socrates.

Figure is that which always follows color. Terms that are coextensive.

[Margin: Not [Natural?] Species/genus definition.

Color form/quality Quid/Quale Virtue/ How do you get virtue (seek)

Adequately done for the purpose.

But what is color, what is figure [What’s involved when people make that requirement]

You forget about virtue, the argument, everything

Virtue is health: When a thing does its proper work well.

On the nature of dialectic

The way to find knowledge is not through eristic or mathematics.

[Nor through talking in class.

but through being silent. I cannot be there, for I am not]

What Gorgias said Socrates: “You tell me…”

[A circle is drawn with rays] Whole of virtue/ Parts of virtue

Eros and comedy; Not literal.

Point where, as at the end of Euthyphro, dialogue might well break down.

Figure the only thing that always follows color.

(Virtue is the only thing which always follows knowledge)

Color is an effluence of figure commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense)

(Effluence is already colored

Tragic (inflated) answer

Virtue is the desire of things honorable and the power of attaining them. Acquisition.

To J[ust] acquisition Is J[ustice] V[irtue] or a virtue?

Meno gets angry. Torpedo fish.” Meno never offers another definition of virtue

Accuses Socrates of being a wizard. bewitched or enchanted)

Cast into prison as a magician. Anytus himself appears later.

For some reason, Socrates wants to go on.

[Margin: Meno doesn’t believe the dilemma he’s been asking all along]

One writes: Don’t need […]} for Meno. He’s already laid bare

The Dilemma

Something is implied here about the whole and theinterconnection of its parts.


To say either you know it or you don’t implies no interconnection.

Like a field of separate parts.

Socrates leaves the plain of eristic; Goes into religious poetry.

[Do not learn because you cannot know]

Socrates breaks off, looks inward

Priests and Priestesses, then a poet

Philosophy requires us to be a lover of toil. To live very piously.

Now, Meno, if that is so, do something.

Its not clear that Meno has anything so far as his [memory].

All nature is akin, man is at hom,e here, with a purpose.

[Notebook, p. 40] Top: One thing that Socrates is sure of: Learning makes us better. Virtue is a kind of knowledge (recollection)

Wm. James: Reality is congenial to the power within us.

Interconnection. The myth did effect Meno.

Shows can recollect without asking the what is question.

Unlike Meno, the boy doesn’t get angry. There is no emotional deal with virtue*This procedure, unlike Euclid, begins not from self-evident truths.

How would you distinguish between an opinion that was your own and an opinion that was not your own

Knower/ `Knower

rather than two ignorant people in dialectic.

[Arrow] All the teacher can do is provide the occasion.

You have to bow to the necessity of thought

Arrow] Efgveryone gives answers for another reason.

Obviousaly not time bound

arrow] He has recollected a false opinion, and now thinks that he knows.

Socrates almost puts the answer in his mouth. And ywet is not a teacher, does not possess that which he gives

arrow] Socrates shows Meno with the slave boy

How could anyone give someone that You always acknowledge  that’s so,

as real, getting closer to something you don’t know

Overcomes something in the dichotomy of either knowing or not knowing.

True opinion: Dreamlike quality

Lazy/ Holy Logos

The duty of inquiry of that which we dio not know

He knows that learning makwes one better; Knowledge is virtue

The whole ascent from opinion.

That virtue and knowledge makes us better.

Is Meno really seeing, or just saying yes?

Meno leaves out practice.

[Notebook, p. 41] Freedom and self control are incompatable, so thinks Meno

No one can ever be educated free or virtuous doing what he feels like

After someone so patiently has taken so much time with him

Right after the story, Meno asks how does one get virtue

If there is something to that story

*Virtue comes by nature, practice, teaching, and many other methods. Depends on natures.


awareness needs to be stimulated.

Principle of contradiction, for instance

Man is singularly special, his position is given.

Man is in harmony with the whole.

science- evil demon or blind necessity

Ground of ground, not eternal.

Recollection indicates the natural kinship between the human mind and the whole

*If one doesn’t believe some thing like that, there is  not even any point in trying to know.

All the Platonic myths are about the soul

Man has within himself knowledge of the wqhole

Effort. Philosopher- lover of toil

Proper nature is necessary

Though Meno acknowledges, he doesn’t ever ask that question again.

Opinion. We are all in touch with the whole.

Our nature, we want to know. pursuit of wisdom, pursuit of the whole.

Effort is crucial because the learning makes us better.

Soul is immortal,; learning is possible.

He can’t be exhorted, he must be made to understand. Freedom, Meno thinks that freedom in incompatible with self control, no body can learn by doing his thing.

[Notebook, p. 42]

Why not be grateful that he gives us this myth. “We want to get this answer about the whole without doing what Socrates wants us to do it.

*That’s an illusion

*You can’t learn that way

-virtue is at least inseparable from knowledge.

How can Meno be induced to take up the task?, shallow, doesn’t lov

Meno cannot become better by learning. What is Socrates to do with this fellow?

Inequality in the decisive respect, human excellence

capacity to govern, Meno, can’t control this if he beauty.

Equality must say no to every decisive feature of that myth

The only way you can have it is this way; That’s why Plato wrote dialogues.

Must yeild to the tyrant, tell him something that will enable him to rule better.[Arrow] “There’s your answer to thew whole.”


Start with the final result [Margin: Analytic procedure]

The excample itself isn’t even technically accurate, and Socrates knows it

A Hoax? Hoot?] on those who get so distracted.

The problem is meant to supply a pattern for the question of human excellence.

Margin: a triangle in a circle]

Teachable…inscribable in the soul, if

it is like something else in the soul.

True courage always involves knowledge.

A dog can stand his post and die, but a dog has no courage.

Courage for sense, else it’s rashness

Its all in whether you use it wisely, or knowingly.

[Notebook, p. 43] Top: arrow through a circle: Practical wisdom; Prudence

In man, all other things depend upon the soul.