Is Effort the Basis for Esteem? by @ZoharAtkins…

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that we esteem those things we work for more than those we are gifted.
Socrates's two examples are wealth and poetry. Inheritors don’t esteem their wealth the way the “self-made” do. Similarly, poets admire their own work (which they labor for) more than the work of others (which they inherit, as it were, but don’t create themselves).
A lousy poet prefers his or her own work to that of Homer, Virgil, and Dante.
Of course, if Socrates is correct, then poets should love the work that is most difficult for them to write more than the work that comes effortlessly.
Artists should prize not their best work, as defined by the end-product, but the most that most challenged them.

Do you agree with Socrates? And if so, how much?
Don’t you esteem some things more than others simply because they are better? If you work really hard at learning a language, but remain mediocre—will you value that language more than your native tongue, prizing the challenge of learning a new thing above the outcome of fluency
It seems that if Socrates is correct, he is correct along only one axis. What other axes might you introduce if you were to model our esteem for our possessions?
Finally, let’s ask if Socrates’ claim is culturally contingent. Perhaps there are cultures or contexts where gifts and inheritances command more esteem than possessions we have earned through our own effort. What would such a world or culture feel like?

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More from @ZoharAtkins

22 Feb
Let's do a @threadapalooza about Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, a philosophical prodigy who started as a formal logician and ended as a kind of avant-garde artist, sage, and Zen-like monk. Throughout his life, he was obsessed with language.
Here is Wittgenstein in the second half of his career, having distanced himself from his Tractatus (the work that launched him to global fame): "Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry." (Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten.) 2/
Wittgenstein started out a #positivist (focused on distinguishing between valid propositions and nonsensical ones). But he ends up concluding that language is far more more robust and meaningful than what the analytic categories of sense and nonsense can say about it. 3
Read 104 tweets
8 Feb
Time for a @threadapalooza about Hannah Arendt, a versatile contrarian, public intellectual, original mind, child prodigy, and postwar refugee, equally at home in the study of the Classics and in the contemplation of 20th century totalitarianism.
Arendt is a great in her own right, but also responsible for the transportation of the thought of Heidegger and Walter Benjamin to the U.S. (and the anglophone world). She was responsible for defending Heidegger (her former teacher and "lover") in the era of de-Nazification. 2
She was celebrated for her cold-war liberal classic, Origins of Totalitarianism, in which she explains Sovietism and Nazism & scorned for her coverage of the trial of Adolph Eichmann for the New Yorker, but her first work was a study of Love in St. Augustine. 3
Read 101 tweets
7 Feb
There's another Straussian critique of Schmitt worth considering: Schmitt thinks the problem with liberalism is that it places morality above politics, or at least thinks morality and politics are separable domains...
But Schmitt is the pot calling the kettle black b/c the argument that we should choose a life devoted to politicizing everything (and agitating against enemies) is a moral argument about how we ought to live.
Robert Howse argues that Schmitt can defend his view of the supremacy of politics over morality only by appealing to faith and theology.
Read 6 tweets
24 Jan
Leo Strauss was one of the greatest and most influential thinkers of the 20th century and deserves a @threadapalooza. His thought is both controversial and poorly understood. He argued for the critical relevance of ancient ideas and great books.
Like many greats, there's a lot in Strauss to highlight and a lot to de-emphasize, meaning that each person will have their own different version of him. The word "Straussian" gets thrown around a lot, but it's probably impossible to be a Straussian. 2
For me, Strauss is best appreciated as one of a handful of diverse thinkers (including Heidegger, Benjamin, Gadamer, Derrida, Freud) who understood that texts don't say what they seem to. They say both more and less than what meets the casual glance. 3
Read 101 tweets
24 Jan
Some thoughts on the unbearable dullness of academic writing, inspired by a recent advice column in @DailyNousEditor.

Did you know there was a State Supreme Court Justice who wrote opinions in rhyme?

Why is Academic Writing Boring? by @ZoharAtkins…
To be clear, not all academic writing is dull, but most is. The issue is, in great part, incentives.

At best, writing in an entertaining manner is a bonus.
At worst, it raises eyebrows.

Using @robinhanson's work on signaling we might suggest that the dullness is the point:
It's a way of showing one's loyalty to one's discipline and profession by sacrificing any hope of being positively received by the outside world (similar to religious observance). 3
Read 5 tweets
11 Jan
Charged by the reception of my Heidegger thread, I've decided to go for a @threadapalooza on Walter Benjamin, another thinker whose influence is far-reaching, despite being quirky, esoteric, and, in his own life-time, deeply unlucky.
Arendt, who along with Adorno, introduced Benjamin to the English speaking world, wrote about Benjamin's bad luck as a hallmark of his life. WB killed himself on the Spanish-French border, fleeing the Nazis (but had he not freaked out, would have made it to safety) 2/
One reason Benjamin is a (tragic) hero of mine is that he failed his dissertation (the Origin of the German Mourning Play); the work was too weird to land him a job, but is now a primary text in its own right. His intro is a meditation on the concept of "origins." 3/
Read 101 tweets

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