64: What do we do with this life? Georgios asks, with Socrates, Aristotle and me, but in a very roundabout way
Ultimately, I think the fundamental question we tumble into, like rolling down a mountain of sharp, rocky points, bloodied and bruised at the bottom of the Mountain of Life time and time again, is, “What are we supposed to do with this life?” The philosophers phrase this question in many ways: What is good? What is God? What is truth? What is kindness? Why do we gather together? What are the best ways to gather together? Why do we rule and consent to be ruled, and what are the ways to do that?
On and on and on.
But, really, isn’t the question also about work, action, energy, initiative, direction, drive, desire, purpose? “What do I do next?”
My thinking about activity and work as paramount might be because I’ve got it on the brain because I’m reading Work by James Suzman. But, if not work, then play? And if not play, then charitable helping? And if not charitable helping, then family or friends?
We are alive. We are doing things.
In that vein, this rambling (and, yes, I’m the one who gets lost during the conversation and is always trying to get found) chat between me and my favorite Greek mirrors the wandering ways of our first conversation. We’ve talked before—last time about Thucydides.
We were going to talk about Plato’s Protagoras. But we hint at another dialogue that focuses, like Protagoras, on sophists, guys who get paid to teach other people how to sway people in conversation or debate. That’s Gorgias. But then we were going to talk about Aristotle.
My favorite part, by far, of this conversation is the end: Georgios’ analogy of “Society as a Board Game.” Don’t miss it. And Socrates’ answer? Well … that’s the last few seconds of the podcast …
So, all that to say, if you get lost, go read a translation of either of those dialogues. Here are two:
I read Jowett’s translation of Protagoras, and I suspect Georgios did, too. Here ya go. And Jowett’s Gorgias? Tada.
The picture? That's supposed to be Protagoras. But my buddy told me last time I stuck in a bust of an ancient, I got it wrong. So ... I think this is Protagoras.