Saturday, December 31, 2011

Poem: her o


jointhemarinestogotoschool

seeKyrgyzstan

tornKandahar

object or

comebackwhole

comeback brok

“terr or

lessmoney

tendingbro ken

oldstory

signedawayby Con

lesshope

“Comm ie

bodie s

pour r a g e

sol diers

come bac k

handsomequi et

onthestreet

notonthestree t

int o

m u sic


brok en

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Occupy faculty: militarism, debt-slavery and 'value-neutrality'

“But in all history there is no war which has not been hatched by the governments, by the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.”- Leo Tolstoy (h/t Peter Gibbins)

I teach part-time at Metropolitan State College in Denver. It has the aspiration of providing democratic education and draws diverse and lively students. Unlike private colleges, the Auraria campus (the Community College of Denver, the University of Colorado at Denver, and Metro) illustrates both the potential and real democracy we live in of which the political class in Washington, mostly lawyers and millionaires, is not representative. The students at public colleges and universities are a core of the future democracy, their voices part of the 99%.

As a teacher, I seek to engage students in discussion, especially in courses which deal with Plato, civil disobedience and the civil rights movement, to find topics they can connect with, to learn in the light of and speak from their own experience. I occasionally ask them in papers on Americans wars or civil disobedience, to talk about their own lives if they want to. This winter, I have gotten several memorable responses.

One is from Armando Genayro, an eloquent soldier and artist who is now active in the Occupy movement. A striking aspect of American privatized, life-on-the-cheap-for-soldiers militarism is that one can join to get help with education, do the time, and no longer get adequate money for college:

“The idea of attaining a higher education became even more unimaginable after the death of my father in the weeks after my eighteenth birthday. My father was the sole provider in our home, and although I was working at the time, a part-time pizza delivery driver could only afford so much and college tuition was simply not in the budget. I weighed my options and decided to visit the local Air Force recruiting officers after a recent boot camp graduate had dropped off some recruiting fliers. I was instantly lured in with the promise of financial security, money for schooling, and extra bonuses along with the ‘prestige and honor’ that came with being a soldier in the most elite fighting force in the world; the money for schooling ultimately being the deciding factor in enlisting.”

“The assurances flew fast, and I was signing my name on contracts faster than I could read them. The country was at war with a new threat, and patriotism was at an all-time high after the events of September 11. These military recruiters are highly trained in the art of sale, and know exactly how to prey on the tendencies of impressionable young people, especially those of young men who are financially unstable, even more, during times of war. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “….And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as the enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.” (“A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967) Not only can his words be applied to the poor class of today’s war-weary generation, but the same can be said about today’s middle class as well.”

Coming to be against war and speak out, “there were instance where I was called a ‘terrorist sympathizer’ and a ‘communist’ by people who obviously had no idea what these terms actually mean…Although I labeled myself as a conscientious objector, I served faithfully and was released from duty with an honorable discharge. However, my service was not reciprocated with the same type of loyalty. Changes in the GI Bill now limit the amount of financial compensation I can receive for my schooling….”

Another student, who comes from a family of migrant workers, liked the course and thinks differently about American foreign policy in the light of it. She describes her brother who also joined the marines to get money for education, and has become, in virtue of what America does abroad (how little one can take it in and remain, for the time-being, fully herself), gung-ho. He now willingly does harm to others, and places himself in harm's way. And fear for him envelops the family (and even from afar, me, who just read the story...). There is something tragic in this, for him and the family (for him and thousands of others, other families):

“You asked if ordinary Americans including ourselves have been helped or hurt by American militarism. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said it was a great thing. I would then have proceeded to tell you how proud I was of my younger brother who is a Marine. I never knew how much one semester of political science could make a certain individual think so deep about our current government. Just last year I knew nothing about the effect the war has on Americans. I thought young men and women would join the military to protect their country from terrorists. I guess that that’s the mentality they go in with and after that whole training process they somehow end up brain washed. My brother joined the Marines two and a half years ago. He’s a smart kid. I practically raised him and my younger sister. When my brother joined the marines I was really proud and happy, just like my mother. My brother went in with this attitude of doing his four years and getting out and using his GI bill to get a higher education. Now his whole life revolves around being a marine. He has this really tough attitude about everything and is very aggressive. Right now my brother is in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. When I asked him if he despised getting sent over there again for the second time, he said no that he actually liked it. When he left the first time I would tell everybody I met that my younger brother was in Afghanistan. My mother’s stress levels are really high most of the time. My son is always sad and worried about his uncle who he sees as a father figure. Pretty much everybody in my family is always asking if my brother is okay every time they hear something about a bombing in Afghanistan on the news. It puts my mom and our extended family on the edge every time because we do not know what is happening with my brother unless he calls us and tells us he is doing fine.”

A third student, now a union organizer, wrote a paper about his father’s response to war, connecting it with Tolstoy on nonviolence. His father told him early to understand that war – and especially imperial wars – are no good, as he had learned, in turn, from his father. He began his paper:

“When my father was but a boy and enamored with the glories of war as boys are apt to do, my grandfather walked him out to the street in front of their house to point out the many gifts war had bestowed on their working class neighborhood. All the houses routinely distinguished by the patriotic red, white and blue were the homes of veterans, many decorated from World War II. Never able to escape their ‘glorious’ past as soldiers and sailors, they drank themselves into oblivion, beating their wives and children and passing out on the front lawn, only to awaken to the loving arms of men in blue lifting them out of a puddle of filth and despair. And these were the victors.”

“A veteran of Midway, Coral Sea, Leyte Gulf and other Pacific naval battles, my grandfather knew the face of war and the price one paid for meeting its glance. Though we think of the fifties as a golden era, the beginnings of an economic boom, the heroes from World War II still suffered the inevitable costs that come from committing and being victim to unspeakable acts of violence. Tract housing and the GI Bill eased material concerns for the average veteran, but ultimately, nothing will make war pleasant or profitable for the common man on the battle field.”

He concluded:

”When we wave our flags and salute the mighty beast of war that we helped build [through a patriotism manipulated by the elite], we fail to notice that it feeds on the peaceful dreams of most Americans. When I finish my studies and begin to cope with the debt slavery that is a by-product of our endless offerings to the gods of war, I’ll save those student loan statements. My kids will not only see suffering veterans when I show them the evils of war, they’ll see those mundane statements as well.”

Exploring the metaphor of the cave in Plato’s Republic, a fourth wrote of growing up surrounded by the Air Force Academy and military bases (mountains carved out to house NORAD – the North American military command - and missiles) of Colorado Springs. She was a good student, but this public school only encouraged people who wanted to go into the military or who were good in math. The high school had deteriorated. Here is her description of an especially bad class – the students rightly protested, the administration, with true military zeal a la MASH, stonewalled, and her counselor belittled her.

“I have seen how the story of the cave and the light is still very relevant today in education and life. That is why I chose this story because the topic of education is very important to me. I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to Air Academy High School. The school was on the Air Force base, which was odd because less than 10% of the school’s population had military parents, which was what the school was originally meant to cater to. Because of this at least in my personal opinion, the school was basically a recruiting ground for the military. The ROTC kids were treated very differently from the rest. It goes the same for the math-inclined. The school used to be one of the best in the city, but had been going downhill a lot by the time I got there. My siblings had attended some years before me and told me students were treated much different than when I was there. Because of this, the high school had adopted a viewpoint that having high math test scores should be the most important thing.”

“I, myself, being more creatively inclined and having struggled with math my whole life, had trouble meeting this goal. Because I was mad at math, I was immediately type cast into being ‘stupid” and below average, even though I was above average in almost all other areas and in advanced placement classes. I wasn’t even that bad at math, but just needed teachers to take a little more time and make a better effort in explaining things which many did not want to do. I had one teacher in particular that would come to class, write the homework on the board and then proceed to play video games on the school’s equipment, not even talking to the class, even though it was a higher level class. After a while, when the majority of the class was failing, we complained in large numbers to the administration, but were met with the excuse that we were not trying hard. For me, this was a very emotionally difficult experience, since I talked on a regular basis with my counselor trying to figure out how to help me, and basically made it out that I had no choice, and that if I didn’t do better, I would not get into college, and even made me convince myself that I would just become useless and have a pathetic life.”

“As soon as I started college, I saw firsthand how wrong the school had been; that I was able to succeed despite not being good at math. It was like I was the prisoner coming out of the cave and seeing the world for what it truly was, not what I had been forced to believe for so long.”

Perhaps others have heard a more powerful or relevant rendition of the cave and the light, but not I…

As Rich Rockwell, my graduate student and friend, discovered a few years ago, the cave in Plato is also the quarries of Syracuse in Thucydides in which the Athenian soldiers are slaughtered by Hermocrates and his troops. War is the cave, ascending to the light recovery of oneself...

I was speaking with my friend Robert Hazan about the depression and tuition rises which affect Metro (I had no black students in one class for the first time at Metro). He told me that the political science department collects food and clothing for students in need. Some students sleep in cars…

Teachers here often are very determined and creative, and work hard with students (I met many colleagues at the Occupy marches this fall). There is a story told in academia that to seek the truth, one must be “value-free.” What this means, as I emphasize in Democratic Individuality (Cambridge, 1990) and here, is that one should challenge one’s own preferences or the “biases” with which one has grown up. One should ask, as Andrew Bacevich, a military officer in a family of officers did, walking around in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall and seeing that the depiction of the fearsome enemy had no basis, whether American foreign policy is right (see the introduction to Washington Rules).

My father worked for the US government as a Keynsian economist during World War II. He always referred to the government as “we. “ It was a considerable mental and emotional struggle for me to sign a “We Won’t Go” petition about Vietnam. Often, we come to change our minds, given evidence and argument, about deep things (the Occupy movement is an example, for many). To be a scholar (or a philosopher) is to do this in a more sustained way, to seek the truth and disregard fear or favor.

But to challenge one’s prejudices is not “value-free.” It upholds human decency and defends the truth against a so-called neutrality sustained by big money and fear to draw disapproval from Trustees and administrators (Pentagon contracts, for example, funded much of post-World War II political “science” - see here). To challenge prevailing prejudices, to ask questions where others assume answers, is a sign of intellectual life.

The truth about Iraq, that the United States government has waged a war of aggression and killed and driven out hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who did the US no harm, is not neutral. And saying it is six of one and half a dozen of the other whether the Bush administration did the right thing in Iraq is a lie. It is not close.

In fact, the desire to be “value free” is derivative from the goal of seeking the truth. The latter, most especially about the basic rights and needs of human beings about which historical and social science investigation can cast a light, is the aim, not the former. When justified, the former is a way to the latter.

The simplest way to see the error in the formulation that academic life at all costs must be “value-free” is to consider the following question: should one be neutral between truth and error, truth and lies, truth and ideology, truth and plagiarism?

If so, there is no interest in the views espoused in academia, and no one should pay money to engage with them…

But of course, this ideology is false, self-refuting (if no view is true, what about the view that “no view is true”?) and, put in the above way, a betrayal of everything that is good in the life of scholarship.

Universities are becoming increasingly privatized. There is an aim, on the part of the Koch brothers and other quasi-fascists (in this respect, even Ron Paul*), to destroy public colleges and education and privatize everything. Glenn Morris, a leader of the protest at the Auraria campus against the Keystone XL pipeline during Obama’s visit - see here and here - sent me an article by Henry Giroux from Truthout below which raises the question of whether the University is some kind of mall or "ecological dead zone" with no concern for a public good, most teachers adjuncts to be thrown away, most students consumers with no interest in seeking the truth, in being challenged, in following her or his own course in figuring things out, in living her own life.

But there are reasons, as the stories of the students invoked above indicate, to do the opposite, to fight for education versus the mall of debt-slavery, to join the Occupy movement. At Harvard, at Auraria, at Davis, at the University of Denver and across the country, the Occupy movement is growing. See here, here, here, here and here. Everyone on campus, staff, students, faculty, and even administrators (those who are interested in working in universities as opposed to privatized malls), has an interest – one might speak of it more deeply as a concern, given who each of us is and might become - in joining the 99%.

Why Faculty Should Join Occupy Movement Protesters on College Campuses

by: Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

Protesters react during a rally at the University of California, Davis campus, November 21, 2011. (Photo: Annie Tritt / The New York Times)

In both the United States and many other countries, students are protesting against rising tuition fees, the increasing financial burdens they are forced to assume, and the primacy of market models in shaping higher education while emphasizing private benefits to individuals and the economy. Many students view these policies and for-profit industries as part of an assault on not just the public character of the university but also as an attack on civic society and their future.

For many young people in the Occupy movement, higher education has defaulted on its promise to provide them with both a quality education and the prospects of a dignified future. They resent the growing instrumentalization and accompanying hostility to critical and oppositional ideas within the university. They have watched over the years as the university is losing ground as a place to think, dissent, and develop a culture of questioning, dialogue, and civic enlightenment. They are rethinking what should be the role of the university in a world caught in a nightmarish blend of war, massive economic inequities and ecological destruction.

What role should the university play at a time when politics is being emptied out of any connection to a civic literacy, informed judgment, and critical dialogue, further deepening a culture of illiteracy, cruelty, hypermasculinity and disposability? Young people are not only engaging in a great refusal; they are also arguing for the social benefits and public value of higher education while deeply resenting the fact that, as conservative politicians defund higher education and cut public spending, they do so in order to be able to support tax breaks for corporations and the rich and to ensure ample funds for sustaining and expanding the warfare state.

The Occupy protesters view the assault on the programs that emerged out of the New Deal and the Great Society as being undermined as society increasingly returns to a Second Gilded Age, in which youth have to bear the burden of an attack on the welfare state, social provisions, and a huge wealth and income inequality gap. Young people recognize that they have become disposable, and that higher education, which always embodied the ideal, though in damaging terms, of a better life, has now become annexed to the military-academic-industrial complex.

What is important about the Occupy protesters' criticism of being saddled with onerous debt, viewed as a suspect generation, subjected to the demands of an audit culture that confuses training with critical education and their growing exclusion from higher education is that such concerns situate the attack on higher education as part of a broader criticism against the withering away of the public realm, public values and any viable notion of the public good. To paraphrase William Greider, they have come to recognize in collective fashion that higher education has increasingly come to resemble "an ecological dead zone" where social relevance and engaged scholarship perishes in a polluted, commercial, market-driven environment. The notion of the university as a center of critique and a vital democratic public sphere that cultivates the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for the production of a democratic polity is giving way to a view of the university as a marketing machine essential to the production of identities in which the only obligation of citizenship is to be a consumer.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters reject the propaganda they have been relentlessly fed by a market-driven culture: the notion that markets should take priority over governments, that market values are the best means for ordering society and satisfying human needs, that material interests are more important than social needs, and that self-interest is the driving force of freedom and the organizing principle of society. The Occupy Wall Street protests refuse a notion of society that embraces a definition of agency in which people are viewed only as commodities, bound together in a Darwinian nightmare that celebrates the logic of greed, unchecked individualism and a disdain for democratic values. The old idea of democracy in which the few govern the many through the power of capital and ritualized elections is being replaced with a new understanding of democracy and politics, in which power and resources are shared and economic justice and democratic values work in the interest of social responsibility and the common good. This radical notion of democracy is in the making, unfinished, and open to connecting people, power, resources and knowledge. And this turn toward a radical understanding of connecting the particular to the general is particularly true of their view of higher education. What the Occupy protesters recognize, as the British educator Simon Dawes points out, is that, "'the public university' can be read as shorthand for 'not-neoliberal university,' where neoliberal means more than private funding; it means 'not good for democracy.'"

All over the country, Occupy movement protesters are setting up camps on college campuses. Not only are they protesting the ways in which universities now resemble corporations treating faculty as a subaltern class of casualized labor and defining students largely as customers and clients; they have also recognized that banks and loan corporations, with their army of lobbyists, have declared war on students, killing any legislation that would reduce the cost of schooling, stifling any legislation that would make it affordable for all working- and middle-class students.

They are also raising serious questions about academics. Where are they when it comes to protesting the corporatization and militarization of higher education? Why are so many of them complicit with the ideologies and money now used by corporations and the national security state to promote the interest of finance capital and agencies such as the CIA, Defense Department, Pentagon and other apparatuses of the national security state intent on recruiting students to produce militarized knowledge and create new and ever more sophisticated surveillance systems and weapons of mass destruction? Why do so many academics cling to a notion of disinterested and objective scholarship and publish and make a claim to pedagogy that allegedly decries any relationship to politics, power or interest in larger social issues? What Occupy movement protesters have recognized is that for all intents and purposes, too many academics who make a claim to objectivity, and, in some cases, reject the presence of the military-industrial-academic complex on campus, have become irrelevant to offering any viable defense of the university as a democratic public sphere, or, for that matter, even defending to a broader public the very conditions that make their work possible.

One important question that arises from the Occupy movement's migration to college campuses is, what can academics learn from these young people? One of the things they might learn is that critical and important forms of education and dialogue are taking place outside of the university, in which issues are being talked about that are often ignored within the halls, disciplines and classrooms in many universities. Many universities have lost touch with bridging the production of knowledge, research and teaching with the myriad urgent social issues now facing the larger society, including crushing poverty, environmental degradation, racism, the suspension of civil liberties, the colonization of the media by corporations, the rise of the punishing state, religious fanaticism, the corruption of politics by big money and other concerns.

Since the 1980s, higher education has been increasingly corporatized and militarized and subject to market-driven values and managerial relations that treat faculty and students as entrepreneurs and clients, while reducing knowledge to the dictates of an audit culture, and pedagogy to a destructive and reductive instrumental rationality. It is hoped that academics might both learn about and be inspired by the current attempt on the part of students to change the conversation about the meaning and purpose of higher education. Hopefully, they might be moved and educated by the attempt on the part of many young people today to reclaim higher education as a democratic public sphere, one that not only provides work skills, but also offers a formative culture that prepares students to be critical and active agents in shaping the myriad of economic, social and political forces that govern their lives.

Students are rejecting a model of education based on narrow forms of measurable utility, capital accumulation, and cost-efficient asset and power-stripping measures; they are rejecting a market-driven model of education that reduces 70 percent of faculty to a subaltern class of part time workers and treats students as customers and commodities, offering them overcrowded classrooms, skyrocketing tuition rates and modes of learning that have little to do with enabling them to translate personal troubles into social problems. Universities increasingly have come to resemble malls. Rather than offer students an education in which they can become critical individual and social agents who believe that they have the power to change things, they are largely reduced to passive consumers entertained by the spectacles of big sports, celebrity culture and the lure of utterly privatized desires.

In many ways, students are offering faculty the possibility of becoming part of a larger conversation, if not a social movement, one that addresses what the role of the university might be in relation to public life in the 21st century. Central to such an inquiry is examining how higher education has been caught in the grip of larger economic and political forces that undermine the social state, social provisions and democracy itself. The Occupy protesters are arguing that while they might support a limited notion of a market economy, they do not want to live in a market society, a society in which market values become a template for organizing all aspects of social life. They have learned the hard way that beneath this market fundamentalism resides a mode of education and a set of values that contain a secret order of politics that is destructive of democratic social relations, democratic modes of equality and civic education itself.

Young people can make clear to faculty that, over the last 30 years, they have been written out of the social contract and are no longer viewed as a symbol of hope, just as they have been written out of the power relations that govern the university. No longer regarded as an important social investment or as a marker for the state of democracy and the moral life of the nation, young people have become the objects of a more direct and damaging assault waged on them on a number of political economic and cultural fronts. They have been deprived of decent scholarships, disrespected in their attempts to gain a quality education, foiled in their attempts to secure a decent job, and denied a voice in the shaping of the institutions that bear down heavily on their daily lives.

Big banks and large financial institutions view them as a drain on the nation's financial coffers and as a liability in making quick financial profits through short-term investments. Young people are now challenging this toxic form of casino capitalism and, in doing so, are changing the national conversation that has focused on deficit reduction and taxing the poor. They are shifting this conversation to important issues, which range from poverty and joblessness to corporate corruption. Put differently, the Occupy protesters are asking big questions, and they are not simply being moralistic. They are also demanding an alternative vision and set of policies to drive American society.

Faculty need to listen to young people in order to try to understand the problems they face and how, as academics, they might be unknowingly complicit in reproducing such problems. They also need to begin a conversation with young people and among other faculty about how they can become a force for democratic change.

Young people need a space on campuses to talk back, talk to one another, engage in respectful dialogue with faculty and learn how to engage in coalition building. Faculty and administrators can begin to open up the possibility for such spaces by offering the Occupy protesters an opportunity to speak to their classes, create autonomous spaces within the university where they might meet and engage in dialogue with others. They can go even further by joining them in fighting those economic and political forces that are destroying higher education as a social good and as a citadel of rigorous intellectual engagement and civic debate.

Young people no longer recognize themselves in terms preferred by the market, and they no longer believe in an education that ignores critical thinking, dialogue, and those values that engage matters of social responsibility and civic engagement. But students have more to offer than a serious critique of the university and its complicity with a number of antidemocratic forces now shaping the larger society. They are also modeling for faculty new modes of participatory democracy, and exhibiting forms of pedagogy and education that connect learning with social change and knowledge with more democratic modes of self-development and social empowerment. Clearly, academics have a lot to learn from both the ways in which students are changing the conversation about education, important social issues, and democracy, and from what it might mean to imagine a new understanding of politics and a different future.

All of these issues are especially true for those faculty members that believe that scholarship should be disinterested and removed from addressing important social issues. The questions students are raising are important for faculty to rethink those modes of professionalism, specialism and social relations which have cut them off from addressing important social issues and the larger society. Professionalism does not have to translate into a flight from moral and intellectual responsibility.

Faculty can also put pressure on their unions to support the Occupy movement, provide them with financial and media resources, and join with them in pushing for educational and political reforms. The Occupy protesters are surely right in arguing that higher education is a vital public sphere that should be at the forefront in addressing important political, economic and social issues. Faculty should combine their scholarly rigor and knowledge to bridge the gap between the university and everyday life - not to benefit corporate interests or the warfare state, but to benefit existing and future generations of young people who hold the key to whether democracy will survive the current moment in American history.

Too many academics for too long have turned their backs on addressing important social issues, on joining with young people to fight with them for a better future and using their knowledge and skills to convince a wider public that higher education is crucial for not only students, but for the common good and the entire society. Joining with students in the Occupy movement is not merely a career choice; it is a choice about what kind of society we all want to live in, and how the urgency of that question at the current historical moment demands that academics take that question seriously and act as quickly as possible, with passion and conviction.

*Paul opposes American militarism and the war on drugs (and hence the prison/probation complex to a greater extent than others). But he is also a stone racist and his policies would put the US and the world in an even longer depression, and with regard to ordinary people, are uncompassionate and, if put into practice, monstrous.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Poem: a distant spo t


1


blue arched in yellow

the gaslight sputtered in the night

a girl pressed her cheek to Dostoyevsky’s

Poor People


and wept


and at so many anarchist meetings

in Stelton

you’d nod off among

rows of would-be

educators


will she sleep on the back bench?”


2


one night some Italian cobblers

at work under the eaves

blew the roofOFF


a man stood naked among pigeons

and the ruins


and stared out


your father

spirited him to Philadelphia


and you went off to college

first MARRIEDRADCLIFFE

UNDERGRAD


never leave him alone with the

chambermaid warned


your New England


3


summer afternoons

I hit against Pete Taggard

who had a live fastball

on the old racecourse by our


mornings, on your advice,

read Dostoyevsky, Turgenev and Chekhov


while you ran for School Committee

in our town – “But after all, Jews

can’t live in Greenwich”

by the Connecticut sound


you who taught your children how to read

but told no childhood tales

for all the world was Westport


blown from a distant spot

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pythagoras on the surface and in the depths of the Republic


In contrast to the previous posts about Socrates’s satire of the beautiful city here, here and here, this essay will focus on the second image, the ascent of philosophy and the Pythagoreans. This image plays a central role in the Republic. As part one indicated here, this is the hinted at city in speech for philosophers, closer to the little city of Socrates and his students, Plato’s Academy or the Pythagorean way of life than to Glaucon’s city, the one worked out in the Republic. This is a meaning or image that Plato expected his students to pursue from the Republic, one that conflicts with its surface meaning and is not worked out within it.

If poetry is not exiled, if the Pythagoreans have a way of life with which Plato, in part, identifies and if Plato’s own thoughts, not fully revealed in the dialogues, are in conversation with Pythagoras, then the hints here are very important. I should note at the outset, however, that it is a serious mistake to label Plato a Pythagorean a) because we lack deep knowledge of what the Pythagoreans said,* b) because Plato is a great philosopher and writer in his own right, c) because Plato transformed every story he laid his hands upon, and there is no reason to think that his adaptation of Pythagoras or Pythagoreans is simpler than his ordinary writing (see here on the ring of Gyges) and d) because Socrates’ emphasis on justice and going down to fight tyranny has, from reputation at least, no direct counterpart in Pythagoras or those who followed him.

With regard to c), for example, Pythagoras had an animus against beans for which no evidence survives in Plato. The Pythagorean sect had other putative rules which are eccentric:

  • To abstain from beans.
  • Not to pick up what has fallen.
  • Not to touch a white cock.
  • Not to break bread.
  • Not to step over a crossbar.
  • Not to stir the fire with iron.
  • Not to eat from a whole loaf.
  • Not to pluck a garland.
  • Not to sit on a quart measure.
  • Not to eat the heart.
  • Not to walk on highways.
  • Not to let swallows share one's roof.
  • When the pot is taken off the fire, not to leave the mark of it in the ashes, but to stir them together.
  • Do not look in a mirror beside a light.
  • When you rise from the bedclothes, roll them together and smooth out the impress of the body."*
  • Whether this account is accurate or not (much is lost in the mists of time), let us compare the martial way of life in the city of the guardians - Glaucon's city - with that of the Pythagoreans. For the latter is also, broadly speaking, with its focus on inquiry, a metaphor for Socrates's or Plato's way of life.

    In the Republic, Plato would have altered such rules in a Glaucon-like direction (the leading male warrior breeds with the most women, the noble lie divides the castes according to supposed metals in their souls, everyone over 10 is expelled, and the like). Thus, in Plato's satiric magic, the "beautiful" city or sect differs markedly from Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans. Imagining that Plato, however, is merely a Pythagorean, Bertrand Russell, for example, neglects such distinctions.

    With regard to d - the issue of justice and going down to fight - the Pythagoreans established a way of life different from and critical of ordinary (Crotonian) life, and perhaps took part in politics there. But what they stood for, aside from existing as a contrary way of life, is unclear.

    In contrast, even as a private man conversing with those who were thought themselves wise and were not, Socrates's questions, as he suggests in the Apology, stung and made him enemies. At the least, Socrates raised issues of justice (and truth) sharply and more explicitly than Pythagoreans did.

    Now, the Crotonians moved against the Pythagoreans, burning their meeting-places, as the Athenians moved against Socrates. But Socrates choose in the Apology to stand up for philosophy, modelling what we call civil disobedience even at the cost of his life. In contrast, Pythagoras left Croton. See here, here and here.

    For reasons c) and especially d), it would also be unwise to speak of Pythagoras as a proto-Platonist or a proto-Socrates. But that Plato received something very important, perhaps even in the design of his works, from Pythagoras, now seems, after Jay Kennedy’s work, to be a promising path for investigation – see here; that the Platonic mysteries – where one might eventually get to who fashioned arguments daily, starting with these texts - are, among other matters, fiercely numerical and musical, grows out of Pythagoreanism.

    Socrates speaks directly of the Pythagoreans in two central contexts in the Republic, in the passage on the ascent from the cave in book 7 and in the discussion of Homer’s poetry in book 10.

    In book 7, Socrates says: ”We may suppose that as we are given eyes to study the stars so we have ears to hear harmonic movements and that consequently a certain kinship exists between the two forms of knowledge. This is the position taken by the Pythagoreans, Glaucon, and we agree with them, don’t we?” Note the leadingness of the rhetoric: whatever Glaucon knows of Pythagoras - though he has interests in music in the text, one might doubt the depth of his knowledge here - he is pushed to make blithely some large assent…

    One of the Pythagoreans’ insights was into the relation of music to the ordering of the universe and the soul.** Socrates’s notion here recalls the role of music in the tempering of the warrior athlete in book 2 and more deeply, the notion of the war in the soul of the unjust man, its jangled amusicality, contrasted with the music in the soul of the just man at the end of book 4. Plato does not name the Pythagorean origins of this thought but the wording is plain. Of the just man, Socrates says:

    “The reality is that justice is not a matter of external behavior but the way a man privately and truly governs his inner self. The just man does not permit the various parts of his soul to interfere with one another or usurp each other’s functions. He has set his own life in order. He is his own master and his own law. He has become a friend to himself. He will have brought into tune the three parts of his soul: high, middle, and low, like the three major notes of a musical scale, and all the intervals in between. When he has brought all this together in temperance and harmony, he will have made himself one man instead of many." (443c-e)

    That the soul is one instead of many or anarchic, that a just man (or woman) is a friend to himself, that the ordering is musical, is here made plain.

    In contrast in book 4, Socrates speaks of the cacophony or civil war in the unjust man's soul:

    “Our next task is to examine the unjust man. Here the soul’s three parts become contending factions, meddling in one another’s business to the point where civil war [stasis] breaks out. Or one part of the soul rebels against the rest with the purpose of seizing the governing power, usurping the very authority to which it is properly subject. Such anarchy and dissension can only be the product of intemperance, cowardice, ignorance and every kind of vice. All these evils together concoct the essence of injustice." (444b)

    Socrates’s discussion in the Republic prefigures Aristotle’s analysis of friendship and tyranny in book 7 of the Nicomachean Ethics. There, too, the parts of the tyrant’s soul are at internal war with one another. A tyrant is no friend to himself.

    In book 7, Glaucon answers Socrates’s leading question: “Yes.” Here as is increasingly shown in the book, that there is thought behind his answer beyond trying to please Socrates is unclear. Glaucon is greedy to know everything; leave nothing, he repeats, out. A reader detects how grasping he is, wanting every bit of the philosophical “relishes.” Socrates responds: I’m afraid I must; I’ve said what I can communicate. Of education, Glaucon finally gets it and says ”you outline an enormous undertaking..." (see also line 531c).

    In book 7, Socrates responds:

    “Then let us consult them [the Pythagoreans] since our task is difficult. Let us see what their opinion is and whether they can add to our knowledge. At the same time, we must guard well our own interests.”

    Even without the usual Platonic shifting of characterizations (one would have to know the original), that the dialogue with the Pythagoreans is largely hidden here and that Socrates and probably Glaucon are not Pythagoreans but “guard our own interests” is made clear. “Our own interests” are at least Socrates’s desire to warn Glaucon from tyranny – one core point of the current conversation – and Socrates’ and Plato’s own, largely hidden vision of philosophy, a conversation in which we neither know, more than pointing through the dialogues, where Plato got to, nor more than hints of Pythagoras either. So these are just some initial markers for a long trail for intrepid students, part of which – most of Pythagoras at the least - is probably lost to us…

    “What do you mean?”

    “We must not permit our students to learn things that are imperfect or that do not lead to results that all studies should attain. We just cited shortcomings in studies of this kind in astronomy. Do you know that the same problems exist in harmony? Those who teach the subject attempt to measure chords within the context of audibility and so repeat the waste of time we discerned in astronomy.”

    In astronomy, Socrates recommends plotting the future course and coordinates of stars – seeing the unseen or invisible, future movements, the ideas that govern the seen – not just focusing on the visible as “decorations on a painted ceiling.” (529b) In both astronomy and music, he calls for an ascent to the invisible, to number.

    Glaucon suddenly can talk about something he knows about and, to try to impress Socrates, waxes eloquent:

    “Yes, by the gods, that’s right [there are many oaths by Glaucon in book 8, a strong, perhaps hasty affirmation beyond what he understands]. And they are so absurd too, with their talk of ‘dense’ notes and the like. They press their ears against the instruments as if they were trying to overhear a voice from next door. Then some claim to detect an extra note between the intervals which should henceforth be accepted as the smallest interval and the basic unit of measurement, others insist that it is no different from the notes already sounded. Both parties prefer their ears to their intelligence.” (531b)

    Socrates’s emphasis here is on the theory of numbers in music that go beyond the audible – “they seek numbers in the accords they hear, but they do not make the ascent to the universal problems of number where they might consider which numbers are harmonious and which not, and why.” (531c). The idea here is at least broadly speaking, Pythagorean.

    In a parallel vein, Socrates conjures knowledge of the invisible movement of the stars. Such knowledge ascends to a noetic realm in which there are no contingent assumptions, where one reasons from idea to idea. This is a kind of glorious metaphor though it differs from all science and mathematics, however influenced by or otherwise realizing of Plato’s vision in contrast to all forms of empiricism, for in these fields, one may alter but not escape assumptions or auxiliary statements (see Gilbert, Marx’s Politics, ch. 1, 11 ; Hilary Putnam, "On the Corroboration of Theories")

    The other invocation of the Pythagoreans is in book 10. There, Socrates offers the supposed indictment of the poets or painters as imitators of imitations of reality – reality at a third remove, shadows reflected from the reflections of the visible world. There is the idea of a chair (comparable to the idea, or the proof in the mind, of a geometric theorem), the particular realization in a real chair by a worker in wood, and the third remove or representation in a painting of the chair.

    On behalf of this reductionist argument, one might say that Socrates in the Republic spends a lot of time cleaning up and debunking poetry. So surely, many have concluded, censorship is a main message of the city in speech.

    But book 10 concludes with a fabulous poetic story, the myth of Er. It goes along with the resonant myths of the cave and the wrenching ascent, as well as the ring of Gyges. The Republic is full of metaphors of going down, and beautifully spun images to give one a glimpse or indication of, though not an argument about, where Plato’s vision goes. Are all these poems, particularly the ring of Gyges which is central to the illusions of all politics (that any American President is a nice guy rather than, as the head of the Empire, inevitably a killer), simply noble lies? That seems unlikely.

    There are noble lies – lies which allegedly further a common good and advance the political purposes of the legislator – and stories which go beyond this (the cave, for example or the myth of Er). What they go beyond this to is hinting at what the vision is, not the steps of argument, if, indeed, there are such steps, which get one there (on the face of it, Socrates and Plato may be closer to Buddha, though with a higher measure of mathematics, music and argument than the latter – though, of course, Buddhists are famously interested in mathematics and music, too). See here.

    Students might notice: the beautiful poetry in the writing satirizes the overt censorship theme of the text.

    “Then if a man were able to produce both realities and illusions, do you think he would choose to work with illusions and devote himself to them as the best that life could offer.’ [Socrates]

    “No” [Glaucon]. But what if the experience of illusions, the question of opinion in the cave leads, and is the only path, to the ascent to the light? Then one would have to question illusions to turn wrenchingly and ascend toward the light.

    “I would suppose, if he actually knew the things he imitates, he would do those things and leave off imitating. Would he not try to leave as his memorial a tangible record of many splendid deeds? Would he not rather be the one who is praised than the one who praises?” To the extent that Socrates knows – that he alone among the dead of the cave can see - he does not leave famous deeds, except, of course, the most famous one: going to his death to preserve philosophy. And of course, Plato’s written accounts we still read and teach 2400 years later (now, there is a fire…).

    There is something unpleasant and arrogant in Socrates’s line of questioning here, something which perhaps Plato wanted his students to consider…

    “I should think he would. In deeds there is far greater honor and profit.”

    “Well, let us not demand an accounting from Homer or any of the other poets whether any of them were really doctors or whether they merely copied off medical language. Nor will we ask whether any poet, past or present, has ever healed men as Asclepius healed them [See here on Asclepius, Epidauros and legislation], nor whether he has left behind heirs to his medical knowledge the way Asclepius did. And we shall forgo questions about any of the other arts. But surely it is fair to inquire of Homer concerning the greatest and most estimable things he undertook to speak of: wars, military skills, the governing of cities, and the education of men.”

    “’Beloved Homer’” we would say…” A student might take in the word beloved here.

    “if your words about virtue are not at third remove from the truth, if you don’t fit our definition of the imitator as an inventor of dreams – if you are instead next neighbor to truth and can identify the kinds of behavior that make men better or worse in both private and public life – then tell us what city has ever been better governed thanks to you. Sparta owes thanks to Lycurgus. Many other cities, small and great, owe a similar debt of thanks. What city gives you credit for having been a good lawgiver or benefactor? In Italy and Sicily, Charondas is so credited, among us it is Solon. Who credits you? Will there be any he can name?”

    This is a grander version of tyranny - great legislation that shapes a people, a Socratic or Platonic version - than the one that possesses Glaucon (he merely aims for great personal pleasure: the “relishes”). It moves Glaucon who is also interested in virtue, in great accomplishments, in appearing good, to take in a wider picture, to think…

    But a cleverer student of Plato’s might ask: despite the thinking about lawgiving in the Republic and the Laws, have “Socrates” and the Stranger shaped laws? In the Seventh Letter, Plato criticizes Dionysius for writing a bad book on legislation and says that he, Plato, who knows so much, will never write down what he knows about law-giving – what he means is not write so that it can be discerned without study. But note: on the account of the Seventh Letter, neither the Republic nor the Laws nor the Statesman, inter alia, is a book about laws…

    Do Socrates or Plato pass through this seemingly Socratic criterion for Homer or does the great-contribution-to-war-and-legislation filter, in the most obvious sense, exclude not only Homer but these philosophers as well?

    Socrates was but a soldier, though a formidable one (see Alcibiades’ account at the end of the Symposium and here).

    “I don’t suppose so. Even Homer’s followers have never mentioned any.”

    “Can we recall any war in Homer’s time won under his command or as a result of his advice?”

    “What about the inventions and practical devices that we expect from men skilled in crafts? Thales the Milesian and Anarcharsis from Scythia are credited with many. [Thales predicted an eclipse on May 28, 585 BC. Anacharsis invented the anchor and the potter’s wheel.] How about Homer?”

    “None”

    “Well, if Homer has no record of public service, what report do we have of him as a private educator around whom men gathered because they cherished his teachings? Did he and they pass on to posterity a kind of Homeric way of life after the manner of Pythagoras? Such a legacy is counted among Pythagoras’s greatest achievements. Even now his successors use the term Pythagorean to denote a certain way of life that many of our contemporaries look upon with respect.”

    “Once again, Socrates, there is no report. To look on this companion Creophylus [his name means member of the beef tribe, perhaps a poet] as representative of Homeric culture might turn out to be a more promising subject for ridicule than the name Creophylus itself. For if the things said about Homer are true, he was neglected by that child of the flesh during most of his lifetime.”

    Glaucon goes quickly off the deep end once again here, making fun of Homer as of the member of the beef tribe. (Athletes like Polydamas who eat “great amounts of beef” are a theme in the Republic, as Socrates uses this example to harm Thrasymachus’s argument about the advantage of the stronger in book 1, line 339c-d****). The Pythagorean way of life probably included vegetarianism, so that is the source of the joke (Glaucon knew that much about Pythagoreans…).*****

    Pythagoras is known, though he left no writings, through Pythagoreans, for thoughts on the transmigration of souls, human and animal. This is, of course, a feature of the Myth of Er in book 10 (Plato’s tale probably also reflects on the Athenian mystery religions). But here we have a seventh powerful memory of Pythagoras in the text of the Republic: 1) the divided line which obeys the golden mean, 2) the importance of numbers, 3) music (and numbers), 4) the stars (and numbers), 5) the way of life, 6) the musical ordering of the soul, and 7) the transmigration of souls.

    Even without much knowledge of Pythagoras, the conversation with Pythagoras seems powerful, inspiring.

    For Pythagoreans, consuming the bodies of animals was as objectionable as consuming people.

    One might ask two questions of Plato in book 10. First, why is the Pythagorean way of life good? It is not said directly here (though recall book 7), but it is a life of philosophy, mathematics and music. The philosophy that a student slowly ascends toward from here, however, is perhaps more Plato’s.

    If one takes the 7 Pythagorean aspects above together, they go far beyond the supposed single mention of the Pythagorean way of life in the Republic in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Yes, this connection is somewhat difficult to decipher, but the path of thought in the dialogues points beyond itself in ways which are sometimes Pythagorean or more aptly, in conversation with Pythagoreans (again, since no writing of Pythagoras survives and there are but tales of the way of life and writings by later Pythagoreans, the conversation of Plato and Pythagoras is not quite audible).

    In addition, Jay Kennedy has just cast new light on the very organization of the dialogues. The divided line in book 6 is a ratio between the perceptible world and the noetic world which illustrates the golden mean (1.618: discovered by Theano, Pythagoras’s wife). See here and here. It occurs , Kennedy has suggested, .618 through the Republic. This ratio is powerful in architecture and in the human body, among other things, so Plato might indeed have adapted this beautiful number to the organization of the Republic.

    Moreover, I have previously emphasized, that in book 9, the just man’s happiness is 729 times the “pleasure” of the tyrant (587e); correspondingly, “the tyrant’s pain may be measured by the same number.” 729 is 9 to the power of 3 or 3 to the power of 6 and this - otherwise inexplicable - calculation seems startlingly Pythagorean (or Plato inventing in a Pythagorean vein). As I have recently discovered, Nietzsche, a great classicist, has a striking essay which talks about the mysticism of numbers for Pythagoreans - 9 being the number for justice - and so this seems an eighth aspect.

    "We mention, in characterizing their method of equations, that justice consists of like times like - in other words, of quadratic number; for this reason [the number] 4, or especially 9 (the first uneven quadratic number), was called justice." (see "the Pythagoreans" in Nietzsche, The Pre-Platonic Philosophers, trans. Greg Whitlock, p. 136.)

    One wonders about the series of multiples and sums and squares which Pythagoreans (or Plato) may have worked on (multiples of 9 for example, are in sum also such multiples i.e 9 x 9=81 whose sum is 9, 9 x 67=603 whose sum is 9, 9 x 505 is 4545 whose sum is 18, 9 x 1041= 9369 whose sum is 27...)

    Thus, some of the philosopher’s journey that Plato encourages is Pythagorean, and the suggestions go far deeper than the surface. If Jay Kennedy is right, Pythagorean principles are employed by Plato in the very writing of the dialogues and where ideas occur, how they are to be taken. If my way of reading the dialogues is right, however, these are no more than hints, since the bearing of the ideas would have to be assessed in the interpretation of the dialogue and not externally according to a code. How would one know, for example, that the satires of censorship of poetry in book 2, 3 and 10 are that, rather than to be taken, along with the supposed city in speech, seriously? That all the stories or myths in the Republic somehow aren’t poetry also to be censored as opposed to resonant clues, eventually, perhaps, to be figured out by argument (does the ring of Gyges’ story have a negative number in the text as a whole?)?

    Leo Strauss, too, is into numerical clues (see Thoughts on Machiavelli), but the idea that one infers truth mechanically from the placement rather than a student’s thinking about the idea or metaphor is, prima facie, implausible. When I say such divisions are but a hint to provoke thought, I mean they are not simply a code, not a secret and final hidden meaning to be discovered solely by cryptography.

    But second, is there no Homeric way of life? Plato takes Homer as a single, though wandering author. But like all epic poems, we now know that Homer was constructed by many singers, who travelled around, and told their tales in rhythm and rhyme, both poetic devices helping them remember. And are not rhythms, following the Pythagoreans, musical…?

    In contrast to Homer, Socrates mentions Protagoras and Prodicus who took pay for teaching which Socrates did not.

    “After all, Protagoras of Abdera and Prodicus of Ceos and others are able to attract many of their contemporaries to their private lessons, where they impress upon their listeners that without instruction from them, they will be able to govern neither their cities nor their own homes. This is the wisdom that makes them so beloved that their own students all but carry them about on their shoulders. (600c-d)

    Socrates protested against sophists like Thrasymachus, thinking them too tied to the rich and to contemporary illusions (the cave). Perhaps he had more respect for his own teachers, however, and one should be careful of this judgment, too, think out the relationship many-sidedly. For many teachers, though perhaps not Thrasymachus, are partly outside, though partly still within the cave.

    Now supposedly, by this argument, Homer and his fellow singers, are a contrast:

    “If Homer had helped men to achieve excellence, surely his contemporaries would not have let him and Hesiod live as itinerant reciters of poetry. Would they not sooner have parted with gold than with their poets? [recall again that Socrates does not teach for pay] Would they not have insisted that they stay with them and dwell in their homes? Failing that, would they not have followed them and attended them until they were able to receive from them an adequate education.” (600d-e)

    But was not Socrates lifted up on the “broad shoulders’ of Plato (what the name Plato means)? Was he not fed, in his self-chosen poverty, by his students and friends?

    Were not the poets named Homer fed when they recited the stories of Greece as the night fell, as the lights of the fire and the stars flickered in the darkness (remember the points of light in the torch-race on horses of book 1)?

    Do not the Greeks honor Homer, “beloved” Homer, above others? Is there not a different and dialectical relationship between poetry and philosophy than book 10 and the authoritarian and censorious passages suggest?

    Aren’t these words, on the lips of all, notably Plato’s Socrates who describes the relation of philosophy to the cave by summoning Achilles’s cry: better to be the meanest slave on earth, to convey the dazzlingness of the ascent? Is not this the setting on fire of Greek and later Arab and Western imagination? If Plato inspires Wilde and Tolkien and this is brilliant and enduring, are we to ignore the light shining from Homer inspiring Plato on the meaning of the cave and the sun-like idea of the good? See here.

    Let us now consider a potential quasi- or one-sidedly Pythagorean objection on behalf of the ostensible seriousness of the city in speech. The way to philosophy, this Pythagorean might say, is mathematics and this is shown in the Republic in book 7. One works with numbers and the stars (and music) to discover the invisible movement of the heavens, the ideas, mathematical and physical, which govern where the planets will be, when an eclipse, as Thales predicted, will occur.

    In fact, this Pythagorean might argue, teaching mathematics in the city in speech is sufficient to engender philosophers. Consider the education of Dionysius in the Seventh Letter; when Plato tries to teach him geometry in their first and only session together, Dionysius finds this too trying and turns away. Mathematics is a clue and paradigm, the entry point of philosophy, and the way to wherever philosophy gets.

    One might acknowledge the aspect of truth in the point (perhaps it is the way for some). Yet, in contrast, one might insist: Socrates is profoundly into justice. Plato’s idea of the good fuses these two things (a concern about justice, a concern about the invisible order of the cosmos). While a possibility, this Pythagorean’s overemphasis on mathematics and a cocoon until one reaches the age of 50 is not right (the Republic's age for starting to do philosophy, echoed by a proposal in the Laws). Even about mathematics, one needs, as the dialogue with the slave in the Meno shows, questioning…

    And if one can ask questions about the diagonals of squares, why not about justice? Why not about poetry? Why must strict censorship occur except to encourage the advantage of the stronger – the philosophical tyrant – and what happens, as Socrates asks Thrasymachus in book 1 of the Republic, if the stronger mistakes his advantage?

    The approach of books 2-5 to philosophy is a betrayal of the Socrates who neither knows nor thinks that he knows.****** This Pythagorean objection suggests the impossible: questioning about mathematics, but keeping one’s mouth firmly closed about justice. To draw a picture of this quasi-Pythagorean universe, these books deny Socrates, force the neophyte philosopher to hop around on one leg, and breed stupidity and holding one’s tongue about the most important matters. Note that the Pythagoreans lived differently from other Greeks and no sign survives in their way of life of the warrior authoritarianism in kallipolis...

    Perhaps one might say of their silence about justice in the larger community somewhat anachronistically: there's was a utopian view, embodied in their way of life (we do not know how or whether they participated in the politics of Croton). In contrast, Socrates ultimately advocated a reformation of political life (for instance, in suggesting longer trials in cases with a potential death sentence about the gods, protecting philosophical inquiry...).

    At the least, Socrates and Plato differed from such (quasi-)-Pythagoreans******* in this central respect.


    *Bertrand Russell's History of Philosophy, 1945, ch. 3 is the source for this list, and one might be skeptical of this, too. His account later in the History of "Plato's" views is literal, as if reading a tract. In ch. 14, Russell makes the good point that cultivation of a noble lie - for instance, the myth of the metals - is incompatible with philosophy:

    "Plato is right in thinking that belief in this myth could be generated in two generations. The Japanese have been taught that the Mikado is descended from the sun-goddess, and that Japan was created earlier than the rest of the world. Any university professor, who, even in a learned work, throws doubt on these dogmas, is dismissed for unJapanese activities. What Plato does not seem to realize is that the compulsory acceptance of such myths is incompatible with philosophy and involves a kind of education which stunts intelligence."

    But Plato is not Socrates or a character in the dialogues.

    Russell fails, at real intellectual cost, to ask himself the questions: what is the point of a dialogue? and what did Plato intend or hope for philosophical students - as opposed to ordinary readers - to learn?

    **Nietzsche claims Pythagoras was not a philosopher or mathematician but transmitter of a way of life and secret doctrines about the transmigration of souls

    ***This image also occurs in the Athenian Stranger’s account in book one of the Laws.

    ****"You are not going to argue that we non-athletes have a like interest in such a diet or that it would be good for us to follow it?”

    *****Again, Pythagoras famously rules out beans. And one must not eat parts of even those animals (perhaps non-sacrificial) permitted, i.e. hearts. So as recorded in legend, the Pythagorean stance, as (semi-)vegetarians, is, seemingly, mixed...

    ******This point is explored in the Apology, and in a more worked out way, in Alcibiades 1, lines 110e-118c.

    *******And the Pythagoreans, with the notion of transmigration of souls from human to animal to human, were also spiritually innovative in a way which challenged the Greek status quo and particularly the gods of Athens (the charge against Socrates). Thus, even for Pythagoreans, mathematics is important but insufficient. Even for Pythagoreans, there was a broad tapestry of thought about spirituality and social/political connection...