Contemplating Plato in the Pool

Plato is one of the world’s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers. He was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, and he wrote in the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. in ancient Greece. Though influenced primarily by Socrates, to the extent that Socrates is usually the main character in many of Plato’s writings, he was also influenced by Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Some of my most relaxing moments during the summertime are when I am in my pool. The pool is very old (probably over 40 years) but very functional. It is surrounded by trees on three sides, including some very tall pine trees and a giant sycamore in my neighbor’s yard that dumps leaves and bark into the pool on a daily basis πŸ™‚ It’s so private it feels like a sanctuary and promotes feelings of peacefulness and reflection.

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As I floated around the pool on my inflatable raft, I thought about my destination for tonight: the Great Books Club at my local library. I have been a member for about a year now and look forward to our monthly gatherings. We read selections of Great Works and tonight’s selections is Meno by Plato in which Socrates and Meno discuss whether or not “virtue” can be taught.

When I was in college I took a philosophy course (don’t ask me why), and although I was intrigued by the idea of it, I didn’t enjoy it very much and remember practically nothing about it. It didn’t help, I think, that the professor didn’t provide much of a context for the philosophers we read, so I still don’t have a very good sense of the chronology of philosophical thought.

After reading tonight’s selection, I am reminded of how much I dislike the study of Philosophy. I am hopeful that my very wise and witty Great Books members will offer some insights that will help me better understand and appreciate this very dry and very structured piece of writing. I always felt that if I didn’t get the “premise” being proposed by Socrates, I couldn’t follow his logic and believe in the outcome. Instead, I always felt “bullied” by his very structured, directive “dialogues.”

As a retired senior this may well be my last fling with Philosophy, so I am hoping for the best. My own philosophy for literature (and almost everything else in life) is to remain open to the possibilities of something new and/or different, unless I feel it will do me harm. However, I also no longer waste much time on anything that doesn’t feel pleasurable to me. I feel this more than ever now that my time on earth is no longer infinite….

Do you ever feel the same way? I’ll let you know what happens! Meanwhile, here’s a quote from Plato to ponder in this season of political chaos:

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17 thoughts on “Contemplating Plato in the Pool”

  1. Your slice is so deeply written and I feel like I should have let myself think more about what to write. Although I must admit I have felt trapped in my own head, so short and sweet was probably best for me. But to answer your question, I’ve been realizing how life is getting shorter for me now, and I need to make better decisions about my time. I appreciate your thoughts very much.

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  2. I’m so impressed that you’re tackling Plato–again! My college philosophy class experience was similar to yours except it’s the one and only course I ever dropped! Ironically, my daughter is now a Philosophy major. Go figure! I’d love to hear how you feel about this after meeting with your book club.

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  3. I love that you are thinking deeply about philosophy even when you are floating in a lovely pool! I wonder how the discussion went. I never loved philosophy class in college either, but we didn’t read Socrates. We talked a lot about the girl in a cave (Aristotle?) and it just felt endless. But I love that you do things that bring you happiness and you are always learning. πŸ™‚

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  4. I love that you chose a difficult subject to write about. Isn’t it easy to write about what we love? I’m still trying to think of a slice to write about. Your post makes me wonder if I should write about a struggle.

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  5. “…remain open to the possibilities…” Amen, Barbara. If you’re interested in teaching-related philosophy, I recommend _Educating Moral People_ by Nel Noddings if you haven’t crossed paths with it yet. I it read earlier this summer, and it addresses that sticky issue of teaching “virtue.”

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  6. Thanks for the suggestion. It will give me something to think about when I’m floating in the pool πŸ™‚ I’m very interested in hearing what Noddings has to say about teaching virtue.

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    1. …and it helps to have a discussion group to support that thinking and analyzing. The conversation about Plato later that evening was very helpful and informative, even tho’ we did not reach a consensus!

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  7. Plato is pretty boring and largely irrelevant. In our current fad of worshiping all things “primitive” we may assume that those people with minds as good or better than ours knew just as much about philosophy as we do. Strange. We don’t think they knew as much about biology, history, sociology, chemistry, physics, and anything else. But philosophy is somehow sacred and eternal? I don’t buy it.
    Everyone knows Classic Greek society did not consider women, slaves, barbarians, and children as we do. But even the free males were trapped in a constant round of warfare with other cities, and often fatal interactions in their own clans. They were amazing for their time. I’m afraid, however, that thinking Plato has anything real to say to us today is just another fable of Dead White Male “elite” education.

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  8. But…the process of shared inquiry is alive and well as is evident in our book discussion group. I enjoyed the discussion since it helped me better appreciate the piece we read, even tho’ there was no consensus.

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  9. I was a deep thinker as an adolescent, remember having talks about the meaning of life, people’s motives and intentions, nature vs nurture…and then adulthood set in, and life became all about work and homekeeping and raising children. Your post makes me wonder if I’ll return to those deep-thinking days in my retirement years.

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  10. I assure you that if you had those thoughts at one time in your life, you will have them again. Raising a family is an all-consuming job that can leave one exhausted. As we age, our focus changes from our immediate lives to long-range focus about our own life and life itself…what it means to us, what is important to us. So yes, retirement offers the freedom to contemplate deeply and that is one of its best gifts.

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