Studying Plato in Ireland

When I first came to Ireland, I remember chatting with an Irish stranger by the Molly Malone statue. It’s funny, in Europe, when someone asks where you’re from, they’ll simply say one word (e.g. “I’m Irish, “French,” “Welsh”) and that answers the whole story. I started to get into my spiel: I‘m Indian, from California, but I live in Ireland now studying philosophy.

He replied something to the effect, “Ah, Ireland is the perfect place to study philosophy: dark, brooding, antsy.” I laughed because even though there are plenty of philosophy majors to enforce the stereotype, I have always believed philosophy is an optimistic discipline.

Despite the dark and brooding weather, I have found a new love in philosophy in Plato. His texts should not be taken literally, but taking into account the rhetorical moves Plato uses — metaphors and riddles worth solving. His philosophy is, frankly, beautiful, and hopeful, to read in a way that modern philosophy is not. And it feels timeless. My professor at Trinity is an expert on Plato and his interpretations and lectures are forcing me to rank Plato as the greatest of philosophers.

It’s also given me the opportunity to reflect on my Mitchell experience in a philosophical context. For Plato, the only way to attain knowledge of metaphysical forms is through rigorous philosophical study. But, in Phaedrus, he presents an alternative route: love. The surprising epistemological priority of love has made me think (and professor endorsed :)) that joy, gratitude, and optimism are chiefly important. It helped me realize how silly it was to study philosophy in Ireland and complain about the food or the weather, blind to what an incredible opportunity I am in. I don’t know how, but I finally feel settled in Ireland.

It felt especially special to read Plato and attend class while in Greece. I had the opportunity to go to Athens with Michael, another Mitchell Scholar. Michael, who studied archeology, pushed me to see more museums and archeology sites than I would have on my own, but I am grateful for that. My favorite had to be the Temple of Poseidon, surrounded by blue-green waters and a striking cliff face.

As a philosophy nerd, I also really enjoyed seeing Socrates’ Prison, mentioned in a few of Plato’s dialogues, and Aristotle’s School.

Another highlight of the last few weeks has been a visit to Belfast. I had an incredible time with the other Mitchell Scholars. Belfast is a beautiful city filled with a somber history. It was striking to see the murals, for their diversity in ideology, existing side by side. It was further striking to see how sectarian pressures still govern life in Northern Ireland. My favorite part, however, was Giant’s Causeway.

I also could feel how myself and the other scholars had grown since the beginning of the year. Everyone seemed, to me, more confident and more adaptable.

As I am writing this I am awaiting the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to spend a fun day with my friends. In a few weeks, my family will visit as well, and I feel well-equipped to show them around Dublin.

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