Provisional Aims of My Book Project

I intend to write a book about Plato’s Republic, particularly about his notion of doxa (opinion/seeming) as it relates to the quest for wisdom. My working title is “A Defective Reading of Plato’s Republic.” A truncated list of the theses I intend to defend in my book and to begin airing out in my blog:

1) That knowledge is something above (not reproducible to) doxa and yet the communication of knowledge must be mediated by opinion/doxa.
2) That opinion/doxa is defective in relation to knowledge and its defect must become focal in order to ascend to knowledge.
3) That desire/eros requires an awareness of defect joined to an anticipation of satisfying what is missing, what I am calling “felt absence.”
4) That the question arising from the defect in opinion/doxa, that shapes a search, is properly erotic.
5) That the Divided Line is the interpretive key to the Republic and that its function is to establish a form of erotic exhortation/protrepsis to overcome the intentional defects of the dialogue.
6) That the constructions of the “city in speech” in the Republic is a concrete illustration of the groping toward Form schematized in the Divide Line
7) That the Platonic educational program is one devoted to the liturgical shaping of philosophical desire.
8) That dialogic irony is a rhetorical form that attempts to avoid the premature satisfaction of scandalized belief.
9) That the conversion/periagoge which constitutes the end of education cannot be reduced to doxa.
10) That forms are heuristic anticipations of the overcoming of doxic defect produced by nonrivalrous forms of mediation.
11) That friendship/philia  is an essential component of true philosophical praxis.
12) That the Republic is intentionally defective and its true teaching is not given in the dialogue itself.

I realize that these theses are too truncated and thus incapable in themselves of communicating my interpretation of Plato’s thought. (This incapacity of direct speech to communicate vital truth is something that I believe Kierkegaard learned from Plato.) But one can point, direct attention and provoke thought in a particular direction. One of the ironies of my book is the attempt to say directly what cannot really be said directly. Wallace Stephens wrote that “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully.” I am worried that my book will be all too successful in this resistance!

9 thoughts on “Provisional Aims of My Book Project

  1. Woody, I love the blog and the book idea! I look forward to reading your entries. Do you see the list of ideas as forming, roughly speaking, a sort of scaled hierarchy? In other words, do you see the interaction between the reality of knowledge, the *reality* of doxa, and the problem of communication to form the basic philosophical problematic the book aims to address?

    • Tillman, I certainly think there is a hierarchy at play, but I’m thinking more of the upward path toward knowledge rather than the downward path toward communication. Both paths are important of course, but I think that one would have to be competent in the upward path before attempting the downward one, if that makes sense.

    • The relevant schematic is the divided line — we reach noetic thought by “thinking through” doxa. This is dianoia. There is no way around doxa, both the upward and downward paths depend on it.

      • This is equivalent to Peirce’s statement in “Questions Concerning Certain Capacities Claimed For Man” that we have no power of thinking without signs.

  2. I think I can see clearer now why I’m so attracted to your site. I have to learn about many different things just to learn into what your speaking of. I hope that I have had some benefit from independent learning (as it was my only option) but its not with out its drawbacks either. Following you has given me some structure and exposure to things that I otherwise may not have had for some time. Iv only scratched the surface here and will probably stay behind in following your posts but I have a strong suspicion ill be sticking around to see where you go in your endeavor. I wish you more success than even you anticipate. I hope that, even if by accident, I can reciprocate something of value to you.

  3. Thanks, Epistemologist. When I threw this blog out into the world, I despaired of ever connecting enough dots for people to make sense of what I trying to get at. But I have been applying brush strokes a day at a time in the hope that a picture will finally emerge. I do appreciate your attentive reading and probing questions. I hope you keep them up.

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