Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Whether Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

          “These conspiracies were not the work of the worst men, but of the noblest, most high-spirited, and most courageous, because such men are least able to brook the insolence of princes.” Though written some two hundred years before the death of Julius Caesar, the Greek historian Polybius noted that tyranny would cause noble men to rise up against them. As a noble man, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar for three reasons: the expediency of the conspiracy, the character of Caesar, and the character of Brutus himself.

     The first reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the conspiracy to kill Caesar was expedient. Simply exiling Caesar was not enough to free Rome from his ambitions, as he might return once again in force and plunge Rome into yet another civil war. Also, death was a common penalty for those who plotted to replace the Republic with a monarch, so Caesar’s death was just. Finally, Cassius, known as a very shrewd and cunning Roman, organized and initiated the conspiracy against Caesar, and increased the likelihood of its success. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     The second reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the character of Caesar demanded it. Caesar had already demonstrated his ambitions by marching on Rome in spite of the laws forbidding it. Further, he retained in his services Mark Antony, a violent, manipulative, and ruthless figure. Lastly, Caesar showed contempt for the people’s duly elected Tribunes by punishing them for their actions at the feast of Lupercal. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     The third reason why Brutus should have conspired against Caesar is that the character of Brutus himself demanded his participation. Brutus’ family honor demanded his participation because his ancestor Junius Brutus helped drive out the last king of Rome. Secondly, Brutus loved the Republic in his own right, and had already served in the Senate. Finally, Brutus was not afraid of dying for the sake of doing the right thing. Therefore, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar.

     Thus, Brutus should have conspired against Caesar because of the expediency of the conspiracy, the character of Caesar, and the character of Brutus himself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Whether Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave

          In Aristotle’s Politics I.5, the noted philosopher wrote: “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” That some are fit to rule, while others to be ruled is a very controversial statement and has bearing on the broader question of who should receive an education. More specifically, it has some relation to the issue of Socrates and Meno’s slave. Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave for three reasons: Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in God’s image, and an educated slave was a benefit to Meno.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates himself was skilled at teaching. Meno respected Socrates and recognized the benefit of having a conversation with him about life’s most essential questions. Socrates was very capable of helping even the hostile Anytus better understand what virtue is and what it is not. Socrates demonstrated throughout the Meno dialogue his ability by helping Meno himself gain deeper insight into virtue.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because the slave was made in God’s image. God created the slave, and all men, with the capacity for reason, and the slave demonstrated this clearly. Socrates also revealed to Meno that his slave was not merely a soul, but a soul and a body that was able to observe the world around him. Finally, Socrates’ interactions elicited the slave’s capacity for language and speech, another critical human attribute associated with Imago Dei.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because an educated slave was a benefit to Meno. An educated slave had greater capacity and usefulness to their masters. This led to a slave saving more of his master’s time, as Meno would not have to laboriously explain exactly what he wanted accomplished. Together, the slave’s greater ability and economy with Meno’s time enabled the slave to make and save more of Meno’s money and resources.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in the image of God, and an educated slave was a benefit to his master. This issue matters to all men because, independent or indentured, prosperous or poor, they were made in God’s image and flourish through the education of the soul.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Whether Evander should have allied with Aeneas.


           Imagine having to chose between sides in a titanic struggle between great and fearsome peoples. This is what Evander does in Book VIII of Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. Though he was king of the Arcadians in Italy, Evander was an old man, too old to fight, whereas His son, Pallas, was a young man, too young to fight. When Aeneas reached Evander’s kingdom, he asked for aid in the war against the Rutulians and Latins. After hosting Aeneas for the night and pondering the matter, Evander chose to ally with Aeneas.

      The question remains whether this was the right choice. While everyone agrees that Evander was in a difficult position and wants him to make the right choice, some believe that Evander should have allied with Aeneas, and others believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas. Despite this disagreement, it is clear that Evander should have allied with Aeneas for three reasons: The gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences.

     The first reason Evander should have allied with Aeneas is because the gods supported pious Aeneas. In fact, Aeneas is the son of Venus herself, who showed steadfast support for Aeneas’ quest to found Rome. Further, the Italian river-god, Tiberius, also supported Aeneas and directed the Trojan prince to seek out Evander for men and aid. Most importantly, Jupiter, the king of the gods, supported Aeneas, as he granted not only the founding of the Roman people to Aeneas, but to Rome herself “empire without end.”

      Secondly, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because Aeneas demonstrated good qualities. As already alluded, his support from the gods indicated that Aeneas was very pious, and Evander himself was very pious, as seen by his observance of rites in Hercules’ honor during Aeneas’ arrival. Aeneas also possessed prowess in battle, and would be able to teach the inexperienced Pallas by excellent example. Finally, Aeneas, being wholly of non-Italian stock, was qualified to lead not only Evander’s army, but also the Etruscan army as well. The Etruscan army sat encamped, waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy about the coming of a non-Italian leader, such as Aeneas.

      Finally, Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the decision had good consequences. The combined arms of the Trojans, Etruscans, and Evander’s Arcadians defeat the Rutulians and Latins and end the war. The precincts of Arcadia encompass the future site of Rome itself, and so Arcadia becomes the Eternal City. Finally, the alliance with Aeneas was critical in his defeat of Turnus. This enabled Aeneas to fulfill his fate as founder of Rome in Italy, and allowed Rome to complete her destiny as bringer of law to the world.

      Some believe that Evander should not have allied with Aeneas because of the danger to Pallas, and the fact that the Trojans were already a defeated people. The young, inexperienced Pallas found himself in a fight with Turnus, a soldier as cunning as a wolf, that ultimately cost him his life and brought Evander great sorrow. Yet, it must be remembered that Pallas died with great glory and honor, and left a great name for himself among his friends and enemies alike, and Evander mourned not for his son’s chance at honor and distinction, but his youthful death before Evander’s own.

      Additionally, given that the Trojans had already been defeated by the Greeks, some question whether Evander was wise to ally with Aeneas. Not only had the Trojans been defeated, but their king was killed, they were exiled from their homeland, and few in numbers. Nevertheless, Jupiter himself had granted to Rome an endless empire, and it was Jupiter alone who decided the Trojan War in the favor of the Greeks.

      So, the danger to Pallas and the past defeat of the Trojans are not sufficient reasons to keep Evander from allying with Aeneas and joining the destiny of the Arcadians and Trojans.

     Evander should have allied with Aeneas because the gods supported pious Aeneas, Aeneas demonstrated good qualities, and the decision had good consequences. This issue was especially important to the Arcadians, because their fate became intimately tied up with that of Rome, a city that dominated first Italy, then the known world.