Saturday, February 20, 2021

Escaping the cave

Yesterday I found myself participating in a most interesting dialogue about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Plato's beautiful allegory, it seems, has become a central discussion point in many philosophical dialogues. It has also served as a premise upon which many of your modern story tellers describe the challenge of escaping our clouded, indoctrinated version of reality to see the world for what it truly is.

I shall not provide an overview of the allegory here, save to say that although Plato presented it in my voice, it was not my idea. It was his. But I would like to mention a point raised in our discussion. Our dialogue turned to the notion of science and its attempt to provide certain knowledge. Now, I am not convinced that the scientific process will ever provide the sort of certainty my friends were talking about. That, my friends, sits more in the realm of mathematics and philosophical reasoning. Still, science does seem to give us an increasingly detailed explanation of reality. Interestingly, my discussion partners suggested that this is not necessarily a good thing. They claimed that our search for certainty is misguided. Perhaps, they said, it is better to embrace a level of uncertainty. As if doing so contributes to our humanity.

At this point I asked "Does this mean we should not attempt to turn from the shadows on the wall of the cave? Should we remain fixated, staring at the cave wall?" As I saw it, they were falling into the very trap that Plato's allegory warns us of, i.e that we are so enamored by the shadows on the wall, we shun any attempt at gaining knowledge and moving out of the cave. My question prompted a certain amount of back tracking and defense. But I think it revealed a tension between the desire for knowledge and the seduction of the shadows.

I very much enjoyed our dialogue. There was much discussed and I am pleased to say that I learned a great deal. I learned that after all this time, people still find it immensley difficult to turn their back to the cave wall.

- Socrates

Friday, February 12, 2021

Where to find happiness

Some people seem to be highly focused on money. They make it a priority. When I ask why they need it, they usually reply that they want to buy food and drink; clothing; technology; and various other things. Some items on their list seem quite important for survival, while others appear to be of little real importance.

I ask why they want these things. What are they really looking for? Almost universally people say that they want these things because they bring happiness—as if happiness is something that can be pushed into us by external objects.

I wonder if happiness does indeed come from the things we buy, or whether it comes from our thoughts about the things we buy. If the latter is true, then it seems to me that happiness can come from within rather than from external objects. It is true that we need food and drink to live. But other material goods may not be necessary for bringing about happiness. 

Let us reconsider how we think about walking in the park. Let us reconsider how we think about sitting in the sun. Let us reconsider how we think about casual conversation with friends. We may find that happiness can be attained quite inexpensively in the simple things life has to offer.

— S

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Real Beauty

Many people devote their time to beautifying their bodies while neglecting the health of their soul. Why focus so much on the transient appearance of beauty at the expense of real beauty? The health of your soul, or character, will endure far longer than your physical appearance. It is surely more deserving of your attention.

- Socrates