The human animal is thought by some to have a “divine spark” in him. What is this? I don’t mean in a metaphysical or definitional sense. I mean, what do humans do, what capacity do they have, what power are they endowed with, that sets them apart from the other animals so much so that they are thought to have this spark? Why on earth would anyone say humans are “touched by the divine”?
Is it better to be truly just, or merely to seem so? This is the question put to Socrates by Glaucon in The Republic. Jonathan Haidt, in his book, “The Righteous Mind”, counts Glaucon among the cynics for putting this challenge to Socrates. But Haidt is missing a subtle and very powerful nuance in Plato’s story. Socrates had just finished embarrassing Thrasymachus for his weak defense of cynical egoism. Glaucon and Adeimantus were certainly entertained, but they were not satisfied with Socrates.
In The Phaedrus, Plato offers up two rapturously beautiful visions of the soul of man. The first, is the Manichaean winged being of pure beauty, trapped against its will in a prison of corporeal form, and able to find relief only in the apprehension and achievement of true love. The second is a famous metaphor who’s hold on the modern mind is as ubiquitous as it is distorted and tragic.
“If I must choose between peace and righteousness, I choose righteousness” ~Theodore Roosevelt I have long held the belief that moral self-justification is both the engine and the doom of the world. Nobody does what they do thinking to themselves “this is the wrong thing, so I should do it”, or desiring to do wrong for its own sake. Even people as evil as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot all had reasons for why they did what they did.