My new Occupy sign

And accompanying spiel: “First this started in Tunisia, then Egypt, then Libya; then Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, then London, then Rome, then Greece; then Montreal, Bogota, and Tel Aviv; and now it’s in the United States.”

Of course, the struggles of the Occupy movement in New York are very different than those trying to overcome 40 years of dictatorship in Egypt and elsewhere; but the idea that the people’s demands cannot be ignored via direct occupation of public space is adopted by OWS from the Arab Spring.


Description of Relativism/Sophistry

“Vol. III, A history of Greek philosophy: Socrates”, p. 111, by WKC Guthrie

“One feature in the thought and speech of his contemporaries seemed to Socrates particularly harmful. Whether in conversation, in political speeches, or in the oratory of the law courts, they made constant use of a great variety of general terms, esp. terms descriptive of ethical ideas- justice, temperance, courage, arete, and so forth. Yet at the same time, it was being asserted by the Sophists and others, that such concepts had no basis in reality. They were not God-given virtues but only “by convention”, varying from place to place and age to age. Serious thought about the laws of human behavior had begun with a radical skepticism, which taught that it rested on no fixed principles but each decision must be made empirically and ad hoc, based on the expediency of the immediate situation (kairos).”

Definition of expediency- the quality of being suited to the end in view

“From this theoretical soil grew the pride of youthful rhetoric in its ability to sway men to or from any course of action by mastery of the persuasive use of words. In such an atmosphere it was not surprising that there was much confusion in the meanings attached to moral terms. Socrates noted this, and disapproved of it. If these terms corresponded to any reality at all, he thought, then one meaning must be true and the others false. If on the other hand, the Sophists were right, and their content was purely relative and shifting, it must be wrong to go on using the same words for different things and they ought to go to out of use. He himself was convinced that the first alternative was true, and that it was illegitimate and unhelpful for an orator to exhort the people to adopt a certain course of action as being the wisest or most just, or for advocates and jury to debate whether an individual has acted well or bad, justly or unjustly, unless those concerned were agreed upon what wisdom, justice, and goodness are. If people are not agreed on that, but though using the same words mean different things by them, they will be talking at cross-purposes, and their discussions can make no progress either intellectually or- when ethical terms are in question- morally. Here, Socrates was raising for the first time a fundamental question of philosophy, the question of by what right we use general terms, including all nouns but proper names, and what is the factual content of such terms, and Aristotle was right to see that this was so. At the same time, as Aristotle also recognized, he did not see it as a logical or ontological question, but simply as an indispensable requirement for what to him was much more important: the discovery of the right way to live.

In Socrates’s opinion, then, if order is to be restored to thought on the rights and wrongs of human conduct, the first necessity is to decide what justice, goodness, and other virtues are.”

Instances of peity or justice are gathered for examination of a common quality which binds them. If they do not share a common quality, the same word cannot be used to describe them. (Footnote quotes in Greek: “We must learn to distinguish good from bad, useful from harmful, in order to follow the one and avoid the other.” Cf. The Qur’an exhorting the believers to “enjoin the good and forbid the evil”, which Salafists employ to discourge Muslims from assimilation in foreign societies, but actually shows the Qur’an as part of a library of universal wisdom, which the Book itself claims to be part of.)

“This common quality is the Essence, or “Form”, of peity. It will provide the definition of peity, abstracted from the accidental properties of time and circumstance which differentiate individual cases falling under it.”

Definition of Excellence

Arete – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arete ( /ˈærətiː/; Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means excellence of any kind. In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one’s full potential. Arete in ancient Greek culture was courage and strength in the face of adversity and it was to what all people aspired.

“The most articulated value in Greek culture is Areté. Translated as “virtue,” the word actually means something closer to “being the best you can be,” or “reaching your highest human potential.”

The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero, Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, Areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of Areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, Areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against individual effectiveness in the world.

Cf. “Moral excellence” from the Reverend’s quote below.

Definition of Infidel

[On right-wing Americans increasingly proclaiming themselves as “Infidels”].

“Back when the world was more assured in its piety, of course, “infidel” functioned as a grievous insult. To boast of one would be almost inconceivable. The KJV of First Timothy tells us that an “infidel” is one of the worst possible things upon this earth. “To say that a man is an infidel,” thundered the Reverend Timothy Dwight, an early American hounder of the heterodox, “is to say, proverbially, that he is destitute of all moral excellence in both principle and practice.” “Infidel” is what the Federalists called Thomas Jefferson when they really wanted to hurt him. It’s the innuendo that Abraham Lincoln felt he had to deny.”

From the January 2011 issue of Harper’s.

Definition of Dharma/Justice/Cosmic Duty

“Everyone, in Socrates’s view, was by nature and training fitted for a certain job, and the mind and way of life of a good artisan were inevitably such as to preclude him from acquiring the knowledge, character, and powers of judgement which would make him an adequate guide in political affairs. Such a view contravened the whole basis of democracy as then understood at Athens, where the dogma that one man’s opinion is as good as another’s was acted on so unreservedly that anyone not a slave or metic might be appointed to office by lot. Politics, said Socrates, was a craft like any other. It needed natural gifts, but above all study and application. Class came into it accidently, and by no means exclusively.

In Xenophon (Memorabilia 3.6), we find Socrates thoroughly deflating Glaucon, Plato’s half-brother, who had political ambitions and the right personal connexions to gratify them, by asking him a few personal questions. How can he propose to take a leading part in government when (as quickly proves to be the case) he is ignorant of such essential facts of life as the source of the city’s revenues, the amount of its income and expenditure, its naval and military strength, the state of its frontier garrisons, or how far it is self-supporting and how far dependent on imports?” — p. 90, Socrates by WKC Guthrie,