Welcome to Reason and Persuasion. Thinking through three dialogues by Plato. Moving into lesson seven part one. Why Read Ancient Philosophy? Were moving on from Ancient Philosophy were going to do modern moral psychology. Were going to talk mostly about Johnathan Haidt's book. The Happiness Hypothesis. So in honor of that changing subject matter I switched our traditional brown color scheme for a blue one. Why blue? Well. Perhaps in some way I'm trying to echo the color scheme on the cover of Jonathan Haidt's book? Truthfully I don't know why I picked blue. The mind works in mysterious ways. Let's move on to our next puzzle for the day. Where's Professor Holbo? Usually we can see him at this point over there on the right wearing his. Black shirt, he's gone. Plato, would approve. Not because he likes podcasts, he would approve because he says that focus on physical bodies is a stage you should get beyond intellectually. But that's not why I did it. I wanted these last two weeks, these last two. Lessons to be a bit more informal, less tightly scripted, more off the cuff. Because I'm talking about material I'm not an expert in, I'm not a psychologist and that I personally don't know as well as I'd like. I, I want to to learn along with you guys. And in the meantime I want to sound uncertain. Rather than certain. So specifically I didn't want my green screen self to convey artificial studio quality, airbrushed authority. But then you know what, I thought about it. That's silly. Green screening should be totally associated with uncertainty. Why because who is the most uncertain guy in the world? The weatherman that's who. He never knows if it's going to be sunny or rainy. The weather is very uncertain if you haven't heard the news. So while I had that super studio set up, I totally should have done a parody green screened weather report about Plato and the Form of the Good. Will the sun come out? Will we get to see the Form of the Good itself? Oh well, joke opportunity is lost. All you have is my podcast-quality voice. Like I said, we're moving on from the ancients to the moderns. And, leaping over 2,000 years, that's kind of exhausting. Let's take a, a brief stop in the year 1637. Why, why that year in particular? Because that's, the year that Rene Descartes published the book called Discourse on the Method. Let me quote you a passage from it. Quote, I am quite sure that the most devoted of the present followers of, he says Aristotle let's say Plato, works for Plato just as well, I'm quite sure that the most devoted of the present followers of Plato would think themselves happy if they had as much knowledge of nature as he possessed. Were it even under the condition that they should never afterwards attain to higher. In this respect, they are like the ivy, which never strives to rise about the tree that sustains it, and that frequently even returns downward when it has reached the top. For it seems to me that they also sink, in other words, render themselves less wise. Than they would be if they gave up study. Who, not contented with knowing all that is intelligibly explained in their author, desire in addition to finding him the solution of many difficulties of which he says not a word. And never perhaps so much as thought. That's Rene Descartes. The book is Discourse On The Method. There's the gentleman in question. Ludwig Wittgenstein once said Descartes had the face of a murderer. It's sort of true, but he never murdered anyone. He was perfectly nice, as far as I know. What is he saying? Well, let me put it in personal terms. I teach the history of modern philosophy, not just ancient philosophy. Modern philosophy starts with Descartes, traditionally, so I assign my students a 500 year old book. In which the author argues against the wisdom of reading 500 year old books, when you could read something that was written yesterday instead. Kind of ironic. Let's put the point in Plato terms, what are some of the advantages of studying Plato? Old as he is. One, He's weird, is that an advantage? Sometimes frankly not, sometimes it's just really unhelpful to, to confront really off the wall, odd ball positions, which are nothing like the one you hold. But sometimes it can be extremely clarifying to set yourself against the weird, opposition to whatever it is you think. Not because you'll necessarily change your mind, but because you'll be provoked to say exactly what it is. You think against this contrastive background of intellectual difference, radical intellectual difference. Let's move on to point two, which is the opposite. Plato's not as weird as you think. I think one of the effects of doing this to John Haidt, setting him against Plato as kind of an opposite, because frankly Jonathan Haidt would say, I'm mostly an anti-Platist. I think one of the results would be. That Jonathan Haidt turns out to be more of a Platonist than you would think, not that I'm determined to find that all the secret wisdom was always in Plato all along. Just that I think that there are features of Jonathan Haidt's philosophy which are good and interesting which he actually doesn't bring out as clearly as he could. I hope to, do him one better in that regard. Three okay, this is a minor point. Whenever someone says as Plato argues, you can use your actual knowledge of Plato to keep them off balance, if you have actual knowledge of Plato. How so? Well As Plato argues, there's always a generic sort of template. Plato, nothing wrong with that, but the real Plato is a lot weirder, more idiosyncratic than that. Remember what I said he wrote all the footnotes in advance, because he wrote all the heresies in advance. Whenever Plato argues x, he probably argues not x, too. So, if you want to keep other people off balance you can always say, actually Plato argues the opposite of that. Okay, admittedly, maybe that's more of a cocktail party trick. But maybe we'll come back to it as well. Let's move on to Meno's stupid little argument. Remember this one? Let me just remind you what it is. Premise one, either you know what x is or you don't. Premise two, if you know it. You can inquire about it. You know it already. Premise three, if you don't know it you can't inquire about it because you don't know enough to get started, where would you start. So, ignorant as you are. Conclusion, inquiry is impossible what an annoying little argument that is. What's the right response, even if Socrates himself doesn't give it. Surely the right response is that there's such a thing as half knowing. What you're talking about. Why am I bringing this up now? I said I wanted to be informal in this lesson. Let me now explain why, with reference to Meno's stupid little argument. Half-knowing is where all the action is. That green screen heavily scripted guy that you saw in the previous lessons, he's great and all. If my lectures were sloppy, you'd just tune out. But it's still a bad thing even though, insofar as it's not how the life of the mind is actually lived, the life of the mind is very sloppy. I mean, the courses that I like best are the ones where I can sit around with just a few students reading a book that none of us understand yet and kind of Learning together. I want to see if I could dramatize that a bit for you in this lecture and it's something that I try to do a little bit in my in my, in the live version of this course. Let me tell you a little bit about that, what I teach reason and persuasion to actual college students like. In honor of the wisdom that. Half knowing what you're talking about is where all the action is when it comes to wisdom. When I teach the class, it's always half books that I totally know, that would be the Plato half. And half books that I only half know in areas that I'm only half an expert in. Here are some x's that I've half known in my day. Our x this semester, this round will be, Jonathan Haidt, but it hasn't always been. Let me tell some other titles, not that we'll be talking about them, but just to illustrate the structure I'm going for here. Robert Wright, The Evolution of God. Wright is a journalist and a best selling author of several books. He's kind of an independent scholar. He writes about science, morality, and religion. Richard Thalerr and Cass Sunstein, their book Nudge was a book on public policy. It would be appear that I'm biased in favor of books with Elephants on the cover, so if you want to get your book. Taught in my class, putting an elephant on the cover it's a good way to start. Nancy Rosenblum, she is a professor of government. Her book is called On The Side of the Angels. It's about the history of attitudes towards partisanship in politics. It's more like academic political theory not really. Philosophy proper. John Barrow is an astrophysicist, and he wrote a pretty fun, popular book, Pi in The Sky. It's really a popular defense of Platonism in the philosophy of, of mathematics. Now, why do I take all the books of this sort and set them next to Plato? Well, put it like this. The ivy which never strives to rise above the tree that sustains it, and which frequently even returns downward. When it has reached the top, 100 years from now, those books I just listed will probably be mostly forgotten, and people will still be reading Plato. Odds are. So you could just say, hey I'm betting on the long term, I'm just going to bet on the thing that people will still be reading 100 years from now. That's good but that's not good enough. The point of reading Plato is not to help you read whatever bit of contemporary reading you want to pick up off the bookshelf, the latest best seller. That's not the point of Plato but if Plato's as good as everyone says, Plato will help you do that. If Plato isn't able to help you understand all those books, well, that's a bad sign. Plato needs to prove his eternal wisdom by helping us to understand Jonathan Haidt. In some way, better than Jonathan Haidt himself does, that's a tall order but that's what I'm going to try, to fulfil in this lesson. One final point. Something in this lesson is going to go terribly wrong. I'm going to teach you something false. Oh, goodness gracious you say. Professor Hobo you shouldn't do that. You don't teach us the false thing. I know, I know but, this is the downside about that whole inquiry thing. Half knowing what I'm talking about. A side effect of talking about things I only half know for the sake of learning something more, is I'm bound to go wrong at some point. Something I say in this lesson is going to be wrong, I'm not an expert. On contemporary psychology after all. Well, maybe one of you will be wise enough to spot whatever that terribly wrong thing is, and maybe you could just be kind enough to drop me an email about it some time. Thanks.