Reflections on "The Clouds" by Aristophanes

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"The Clouds" by Aristophanes, is a play centrally concerned
with education. Aristophanes employs satire to illustrate his conservative beliefs. It is intended to show readers that in the tendency to philosophical subtleties lies the neglection of the real needs of the Athenians. According to Aristophanes,

philosophical speculation only acts to shake the established foundations of accepted religion, gods, and ideals of morality. Specifically, as it was even discused in "The Apology,"
Aristophanes believed that philosophical attitudes held by the Sophists enabled those who held them to convince others of wrong or weaker beliefs simply by sounding as if they knew what they were talking about -- when in reality they didn't. It seems as if Aristophanes would approve of an education based souly around the reading of clasiscal literature and some physical excersize. I believe the fact that Athenian youth were starting to ask

questions of the elders in the city really bothered
Aristophanes. I think he really thought it to be dangerous and detrimental to society; as can be seen through the line
Strepsiades yells towards the end, "revenge for the injured gods (II.i.1506)." I believe Aristophanes to be part of the group that accused Socrates of not accepting the recognized gods of state, which many believed to be a part of the corruption of Athenian youth. While I don't agree with that accusation --

primarily because of Socrates recognition of Apollo through the Oracle at Delphi -- I can see some Aristophanes' points of
contention with what he thought the Sophists and other
philsophers stood for.
The Clouds, who form the chorus in Aristophanes' play, are a physical representation of the "philosophical speculation" that Aristophanes speaks of. According to Aristophanes, these
speculations do not come from a grounded sense of experience, but rather float about without definite framework and
actualization, simply in the realm of possibility. I found it interesting that Aristophanes chose to illustrate this metaphor between the clouds and the Sophists' beliefs into a literal
representation. He furthered this illustration by choosing to bring Socrates on his first appearance floating in on a basket down to the stage.
Another aspect I find interesting in Aristophanes' "The
Clouds," is the fact that even though it's obvious Aristophanes is preaching to readers a more non-religious message of the
importance of truthfulness, civic responsibility, and virtue, the play takes on a religious tone (as can be seen in the
aforementioned Strepsiades quote). In doing some background
research into why this would be, I discovered that Aristophanes' religious undertones could stem from the fact that Athenians were trying to harmonize science and religion. When new
scientific theories were starting to surface and be questioned, many people couldn't even consider them without sounding as if they were committing treason against the state. Aristophanes turns to religion in order to remind his audience that both

religion and science have to be equally open to questions,
critique, and even in Aristophanes' case, satire. This
suggestion, that certain things need to be equally suceptable to to critique and questions can also be seen through the way that Aristophanes suggests there is both a problem with the accepted model of a "well-rounded" education, and the newer model brought about by such philopophers as the Sophists. Aristophanes saw the danger in not questioning an accepted theory or belief. Despite the fact I agree with Johnson in that Aristophanes may be a

"staunch defender of old values," Aristophanes saw that if
something widely accepted was left unquestioned for too long, it would become idle. Basically, an idea that I believe should be applied more in the world we live in today -- a traditionally accepted theory or belief could lose the exact fundamentals and values it was based on.

I agree with Johnson in that I believe...
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