Tutor profile: Ryan H.
What is the meaning of the word 'philosophy' and how does it relate to Socrates as we see him in Plato's 'Apology'?
'Philosophy' means 'love of wisdom' (philia 'love' + sophia 'wisdom'). Socrates in the 'Apology' goes to great lengths to defend himself against charges of being a sophist, which literally translates to 'wise one'. Sophists claim to be wise, to have knowledge that they can teach to others for a price. In describing himself as a philosopher, Socrates indicates that he loves wisdom but does not necessarily posses it. A lover desires something. If I am currently wearing pants, I cannot desire to wear pants. I can only desire what I lack. So a philosopher lacks wisdom, but because the philosopher loves wisdom, she endlessly seeks it the way a lover endlessly seeks her beloved.
Take a position on 'Oedipus the King'—is Oedipus blameworthy for murdering his father and marrying his mother? Why or why not?
On the one hand, Oedipus clearly makes choices throughout the play. He kills an old man in what can only be described as a fit of road rage, and the old man turns out, of course, to be his father. The story is presented to us as Oedipus making conscious choices. Similarly, throughout the play Oedipus repeatedly chooses to continue his investigation despite other characters warning him to cease. On the other hand, Oedipus' life was fated before he was ever born. The prophecy was the exact reason Oedipus' birth parents got rid of him. If we accept the play's viewpoint that fate is real and powerful, then it's unclear why we can blame Oedipus for anything. It may seem like he opted to kill the old man on the road, but if fate was behind it, then he couldn't have. In either case, this is a uniquely modern question, one that does not seem to have bothered the ancient Greeks. By the end of the play, Oedipus learns the truth about himself and plucks out his own eyes, willingly going into exile. He acknowledges the role that fate played in his life but also doesn't deny that he did what he did. While this may be a sort of contradiction for us moderns, perhaps the point of tragic drama is to depict a situation or tension that is not easily resolved through logical reasoning.
Subject: East Asian History
Briefly explain the historical context in which Confucianism rose to political importance in early China. Also describe some features of Confucianism that made it appealing for political purposes.
The Martial Emperor (Han Wudi) selected Confucianism as the official state ideology in approximately 168 BCE. Known for his campaigns against foreign "barbarians," Wudi required a unified empire behind him to (1) fund his war efforts and (2) help distinguish the Han Empire from those outside of it. After the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, oversaw the destruction of most written classical philosophy, the tradition begun by Confucius nevertheless remained. Because Confucius and his students emphasized right behavior and fulfillment of duty, it was an appealing ideology for rulers. Subjects ought to behave toward the ruler in a certain way (and vice versa), just as children ought to behave rightly toward their parents. Confucianism also hearkens back to a golden age of Chinese culture, the early Zhou Dynasty. With this conservative streak, Confucianism was unlikely to provide the ideological justification for revolutions or disobedience to the throne. The emphasis on study and reflection in a good life also lent itself to the creation of the imperial examination system, which became the primary way for the government to recruit bureaucrats.
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