By absent-minded on
Saturday, October 27, 2001
Friday, June 29, 2001
Chess has a purpose, whether the game itself, fighting with a specific opponent, or victory, or something else. Thinking also has to have a purpose, even if this purpose may change during the game. It has also some conditions. In philosophy this is called, I think, "theory of knowledge", which in our days tends to be transformed by some fellows into a theory of knowledge as a biology of the brain, a kind of new stupidity in the form of a quasi-philosophical racism, that tries to see, what kind of a body would make a ping pong champion!
There is not only what I want, (which is equally necessary - you can't wake up one morning saying "today I will become wise"), but also what I can, or rather, what is possible.
I don't think that Plato was crazy about education - at least not in the sense of education as an infusion of knowledge. The art of giving birth, the Socratic irony, is just to help someone realize what he knows. This way, education is just teaching good reasoning, while offering to people that don't have equal or better exercise the results of that reasoning on a specific topic along with the process of reasoning or not, it is, for Plato, politics, not education - like letting a chess computer show you the next move.
A real student must, at last, leave Socrates in his peace and go on without him. This is what Plato did, for example. Maybe the main point in Plato's attack to the books, is not so much that written word is against memory, but that a dialogue must never stop, whether with or without books - which means: you don't really know anything completely ever but you must study it continuously, something like Zeno's space paradox, with the difference that the rabbit runs not to reach the finish, whether first or last, but just to go deeper, to submerge in the infinity.
Another of Plato's good points is that the answer to a problem, temporary, but also an answer, must be revealed in the mind like a lightning, which presupposes a passionate nature - you must really want it. But the lightning metaphor has also another dimension. If Plato is right, the limits, at least in this metaphor, are not defined by what you can not answer or by what you can not even ask, but by the very answer or the absence of an answer. This particular limit reveals the answer as something transcendental in relation with reasoning, as something that is not the output of reasoning, although reasoning has something to do with it. In a single word, this is usually called with a rather misunderstood word, i.e. inspiration. If this word can indeed be used in Plato's metaphor, then inspiration needs a lot of work - you have to become a big tree in order for the lightning to strike you.
Putting it all together - reasoning, education, inspiration, dialogue - we see that Plato is the end (in the sense of completion) of a period of thinking that started with Homer and includes philosophy, poetry and religion. Aristotle is already a scholastic, or, in better terms, with him thinking becomes the observation of a memory, dialogue is something that happens only in the past and between concepts, with the very persons as concepts. Aristotle studies Everything, because even limits have become a memory to be observed, without inspiration - without even surprise. However, Aristotle just followed some of the paths that the previous period of philosophy had opened - what was really lost, was the unity between poetry, philosophy and religion, it all became philosophical, or rather, scientific.