On Thursday November 11, Simon Trepanier honored the ECLA audience with an enlightening lecture on Plato’s Republic. Trepanier is a member of the teaching faculty at the University of Edinburgh and has a BA and PhD in Classical Greek thought from the universities of Ontario and Toronto respectively.
The first question that guest lecturer Simon Trepanier asked was, “Are philosophers pasty-faced nothings?” This is also brought up in the Republic when Adiemantus questions Socrates about his thoughts on philosophers. The question is an extremely essential one as it lays down the whole foundation for knowing why philosophical education is important for us human beings and what kind of philosophical education should we aspire to. Over the course of the lecture, Trepanier tried answering these questions in light of Socratic and pre-Socratic teachings.
Trepanier dedicated the first part of the lecture to discussing the basic arguments put forth by Socrates. According to Trepanier, we as ECLA students along with him were going to play a game, which the puppets of Sesame Street play: “ This is my house, this is my street, this is my city, this is my world and this is my universe.” He, in his one and half hour lecture, dealt with the whole subject matter in layers, very candidly and profoundly.
Books 5, 6, and 7 of Republic remained the main focus of attention for Trepanier during the lecture. His choice of words remained very economical and simple. He drew the audience’s attention to Socrates’ basic underlying thesis which would be that only through the philosophical and scientific knowledge of the visible world can you achieve the invisible good.
He went on to explain the concept of good which is presented in the Republic through the divided line. By explaining the many portions of the divided line he gave the audience a clear vision of where the “good” is found on the line, and how we humans can reach that good. Trepanier also stressed that according to Socratic teachings, this good is the source of the soul. The soul has to reach back to its source to approach the good. How does that happen? This is further explained in the allegory of the cave.
The second half of the lecture focused very much on the form of literature that was being produced prior to and during Socrates’ time. An important aspect that he brought before the audience was the reason why Plato wrote literature as opposed to papers and literary critiques. During pre-Socratic times, the philosophy of life was preached as the Bible is in many religious circles today.The philosophers would gather people together and give sermons about how to change their lives. Plato’s writings were different. They involved dialogues that were loaded with irony, wit, and reason.
The form that Plato chose to educate people remains effective today and has a great influence on the human soul. Trepanier also pointed out the pre-Socratic philosophers who had also dealt with the idea of soul’s immortality and the form of the good. And these ideas certainly have influenced Socratic thought in many ways.
The lecture ended after a brief question and answer session and the audience left the lecture hall after a very refreshing lecture and discussion with Dr. Trepanier, looking forward to another amazing weekend in Berlin.