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What is the underlying connection or continuity between Plato’s metaphysics as we looked at it in the Symposium

PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy

Module 4 Discussion

Questions on Augustine:

1. What is the underlying connection or continuity between Plato’s metaphysics as we looked at it in the Symposium (the Form of the Beautiful at the end of the “Ladder of Love”) and the Republic (Theory of Forms) and the Christian metaphysics we find in St. Augustine? The difference between our world and another world could be best summed up in the long paragraph under number 28 on p. 232, and is the most important connection here.

 

2. What is the basic (two-premise + conclusion) argument of the long passage from pp. 211-212  that begins with “But what I love when I love my God…”? Reconstructing this argument is an important thing to take away from this week’s reading.

 

3. What does Augustine think is the main distinction or difference between human beings and animals, as this distinction relates to our access to and understanding of God? See p. 213: “The animals, both great and small, are aware of it [the universe], but they cannot inquire into its meaning because they are not guided by reason”; and p. 230: “When I remind myself of you [God] I go beyond those functions of the memory which I share with the beasts…”

 

4. Why does Augustine suggest that it is memory, alone among all the functions and capacities of the soul and mind, that allow us access to God? See pp. 230-231. Answering this question might require thinking outside the text a bit and thinking about what would motivate this argument, in other words, what is it about memory that is a compelling tool to get us toward God.

 

5. Do you find Augustine’s version of Christian faith (a God in another world, totally separate from us) recognizable as a form of religious belief? Is this a persuasive or convincing way to think about God? Why or why not? Think here of developing an objection to or critique of Augustine on God.

 

Questions on Nietzsche:

 

1. Nietzsche, we could say, even though he represents an atheistic point of view, agrees with Plato and Augustine in the basic characterization of a two-world metaphysics. In what way does Nietzsche follow their characterization of this form of thought? How does he also represent a critique of two-world metaphysics?

 

2. Explain the metaphorical meaning of the three main symbols in section 1 (pp. 121-122) of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, especially as these symbols relate to metaphysics, Plato, and Christianity: The cave, going under, and the sun.

 

3. Zarathustra encounters an “old saint” in section 2 (pp. 124). What point of view does the old saint represent, and how does Zarathustra depart from or dispute that point of view? And, most importantly, what does Zarathustra mean when he says, with reference to his conversation with the old saint, “God is dead!” (p. 124)?

 

4. What does the “overman” (see pp. 125 and 132 especially) represent (Übermensch, also translated as “superman”)? What way of life does this figure signal and try to teach us about today? How would the overman’s point of view represent a difference from Platonism and Christianity? Why can we call the point of view of the overman, his adherence to “the meaning of the earth” (p. 125), something like what is sometimes referred to as existentialism?

 

5. Do you agree with Nietzsche’s basic characterization of Christianity as implying hatred of life (old saint)? Why or why not?

 

6. Compare Plato’s account of the soul with Nietzsche’s: “By my honor friend…all that of which you speak does not exist: there is no devil and no hell. Your soul will be dead even before your body; fear nothing further” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 132). As a departure from Plato’s understanding of the soul, do you find this passage convincing? Why or why not?

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