First of all, I was reading Ion the other day. It’s one of Plato’s dialogues. Someone asked what I was reading, and I answered, “Plato.” She heard, quite distinctly, “Play-dough.” Two very different things.
Anyway. I was reading Plato again today (from the Republic). Plato writes in dialogues, where two people are speaking with each other, determining philosophical information. The two people are normally Socrates and someone else, anyone else. Socrates, being the philosopher, does most of the speaking.
I think this writing in dialogues is very significant to what Plato does. His ideas aren’t spoken by his own words, but through the mouthpiece of Socrates. Because of this, I don’t take Plato seriously.
In Ion, the whole point of Socrates philosophy is to insult Ion. I’m serious. He isn’t making grand points. He’s insulting Ion and doing it very, very cleverly, so Ion doesn’t know he’s being insulted.
Ion is someone who recites poetry for a living. At the beginning, he’s thinks he’s very good at his job. By the end of the dialogue, Socrates has him convinced that he is terrible at reciting poetry and has no skill. (Instead, he’s only “possessed” by the divine as he recites, and this is what gives an illusion of talent.) Ion, in an unconscious defense, changes his career so he’s a general. He does all he can to avoid the insult, but Socrates get his word in. It’s hilarious. I told my sister that she should have the drama department in her high school act it out. Everyone would laugh.
This is how I read Plato’s dialogues. As hilarious and intellectual interactions between people.
At multiple points, Socrates says to Ion, “You’re superb!” It is said in the most sarcastic way, because Socrates is totally manipulating him. Socrates manipulates everyone he speaks to, and ends up making them agree with the craziest things. In the Republic, he ends up convincing someone that all poetry should be done away with, and Socrates convinces him so thoroughly that the guy thinks that legislation should be passed to sensor all of the classic poets. Is Socrates serious? No. He’s just making fools out of everyone else.
So go and read Plato. Be entertained.
I’m a nerd, aren’t I?