Is Plato a pompous ass?
Years ago, back in the post-Greek Stone Age, back when we believed in boys and girls, I presented a paper to my college classic philosophy class. We met in a kind of colloquium: we ate dinner first, and then, fat and sleepy from casseroles, we presented our papers. The topic was Plato and feminism.
I don’t remember a word I wrote, but remember that I presented Plato as a forward-looking feminist when compared to his culture and contemporaries. I argued that we do best to measure history by historical standards and not by ours. Heck, even Dr. Martin Luther King, that unassailable saint I grew up with, has been kicked to the gutter these days. And he’s on a stamp!
Captured in a title
I don’t remember what I wrote but, all these years later, I remember the paper I responded to was titled, Why Plato Is A Pompous Ass. It was a great title. Written by a woman, it caught your attention, and, all of a sudden, I was forced to explain why Plato wasn’t a pompous ass. It wasn’t an easy task.
Her argument, though, was easy, and she was right: if you consider women as property that can be bought and sold, you aren’t forward-thinking, you aren’t smart, and you’re not even nice. You are, in fact, an ass.
She brought down the house, and I got a few boos for defending the old coot. We met in the university’s Women’s Center, after all. But I remember thinking about how good her paper was. Mine was good, too, academically, but the plain fact is that there is no answer to the question. It’s important to see all sides. If you do, then you’ll often see that the people on the other side aren’t animals or idiots or Satanists trying to overthrow the world order. They are probably just like you: hard-working and thinking people with a worldview that leads them in this direction.
Isn’t that the start of real dialog and understanding? Sitting and listening to another’s view? I think so. And I think this woman was right: Plato was a pompous ass.
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