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What would the implications be if humans embraced the notion of existential passage?
06-05-2009, 12:18 PM (This post was last modified: 09-23-2009 03:04 PM by essay author ws.)
Post: #3
Triangulating Plato's lottery: Myth of Er
(05-30-2009 07:41 PM)Avalon Wrote:  [ws - noting one of Avalon's speculative possibilities] The negative implications:
- EP is a complete lottery as to who we end up existing as / "passing" to after we die. Given that the majority of conscious beings here on earth suffer painful existences, or at least painful deaths, EP does not sound a very comforting notion. Death may depress many people even more than it currently does.

My ear is sensitive to the word Avalon used: lottery.

You know, Plato's poetic Myth of Er does itself employ a lottery. After a rest of seven days in the meadow, Everyman Er and those awaiting their fate visit Lachesis the daughter of Necessity, to choose their random lots:

Quote:When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis; but first of all there came a prophet who arranged them in order; then he took from the knees of Lachesis lots and samples of lives, and having mounted a high pulpit, spoke as follows: 'Hear the word of Lachesis, the daughter of Necessity. Mortal souls, behold a new cycle of life and mortality. Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you choose your genius; and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a man honours or dishonours her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser --God is justified.' When the Interpreter had thus spoken he scattered lots indifferently among them all, and each of them took up the lot which fell near him, all but Er himself (he was not allowed), and each as he took his lot perceived the number which he had obtained. Then the Interpreter placed on the ground before them the samples of lives; and there were many more lives than the souls present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and of man in every condition. And there were tyrannies among them, some lasting out the tyrant's life, others which broke off in the middle and came to an end in poverty and exile and beggary; and there were lives of famous men, some who were famous for their form and beauty as well as for their strength and success in games, or, again, for their birth and the qualities of their ancestors; and some who were the reverse of famous for the opposite qualities. And of women likewise; there was not, however, any definite character them, because the soul, when choosing a new life, must of necessity become different. But there was every other quality, and the all mingled with one another, and also with elements of wealth and poverty, and disease and health; and there were mean states also. And here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure he may be able to learn and may find some one who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity... For this is the way of happiness.

...this was what the prophet said at the time: 'Even for the last comer, if he chooses wisely and will live diligently, there is appointed a happy and not undesirable existence. Let not him who chooses first be careless, and let not the last despair.'

In the myth, who was the very last man to choose? Who got the final lot -- and the poorest choice of potential lives? And what was the outcome?

The myth is of course only a poem (written by a man who discouraged poetics). The myth encourages good choices and philosophical life, while making no particular promise for the Great Hereafter. Please note that in the Myth of Er:
  1. Randomness in the allotment of lives is a given.
  2. More specifically, reward and punishment are not determining factors in men's conditions of birth.
  3. It is instead men's conscious choices which shape their lives.

Keeping these points in mind, please do read Plato's myth. Having read all, do you yourselves then find that you feel more "depressed" or "lacking in comfort" (using Avalon's terms) than before? What actual effect does Plato's myth have upon you, if any?

My Aegean idyll does also employ a random lottery (Nature's own), and so I find myself wondering what effect or effects these lotteries might have upon contemporary readers. If the Myth of Er's lottery has one consistent effect, perhaps the Aegean idyll's lottery will have the same.

If I might rephrase in the nautical terms I used previously: The lottery of the Myth of Er is a landmark of a certain known height, let's say. When we note our reaction to the Myth of Er's lottery we are measuring our metaphysical "distance" from that famous landmark. The Aegean idyll's lottery is just as random, and therefore of the same height. This knowledge should enable us to mark the implications of the Aegean idyll's random lottery on our metaphysical chart, as a known point. We grab a sextant and ascend to the crow's nest:

"Looking back eastward we see that the Myth of Er's lottery measures 2 degrees above horizon. We know already the height of that lottery, so we can triangulate to say that the Myth of Er is [x] miles east of our position. Turning our sextant westward we see that the Aegean idyll's lottery also measures 2 degrees above horizon. The lotteries are of the same height. And so, logically, we can mark down the Aegean idyll on our metaphysical map, [x] miles to the west."

Something like that, if you'll pardon the poetics. (Plato would, under the circumstances.) But this seems right only if readers have similar reaction to both lotteries. Well, you can say.

All the best,
Wayne Stewart
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Triangulating Plato's lottery: Myth of Er - essay author ws - 06-05-2009 12:18 PM

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