Saturday, May 9, 2009

08 Plato

We are imprisoned in a cave, in chains. We cant move...we never could...we only can look at the wall in the back of the cave.

We she shadows moving there...that is our reality..these shadows...What is real..??? That round..that square shadow over there.

Behind us is a wall and behind that wall is a big fire that sheds light into our cave.

And between the fire and the wall people walk by wearig all kinds of things on their heads. That are the shadows we see.

Suppose one of us was freed from his chains and able to look over his shoulder....he would be blinded by the light.

Let him get used to the light and he would be delighted to see the real thing. We see only shadows of people carrying things on their head behind a wall.

If he would return to us in the cave and tell us what he saw, we would laugh at him...he must have gone nuts. What is he talking about?

Yes...what is he talking about? He is talking about the real thing, but we arent able to see that.

This is how Plato depicted man in his epistemological condition. We are used to the transient world of our sensory observations. What we see and feel and hear is our reality. But in it seems nothing lasting. So everything that really exists is change, as Heraclites said?

No said Plato.....we see a dozen different horses, but they all have one thing in common: being a horse. So there is some universal idea of horse from which all differently looking horses derive their essence of being a horse.

Plato's philosophy was that in the world of our always changining sensory impressions we are presented with eternal and unchanging ideas.

I can taste a cookie which I like while another says it tastes disgusting. Our sensory impressions only lead to opinions. They can be true opinions, but still only opinions.

In our mind we find the idea of what a cookie is, independent of its tast, like we can see dozens of triangle of different shape. They all have one essential thing in common: being a triangle.

As individuals we are imprisoned inside our body, inside our sensory experiences, which only lead to opinions. What we need to seek for is the essence in the multitude of sensory experiences.

And we only find this essence in our mind. Looking at tons of different triangles we still have that one idea in our mind: that is a triangle.

To make a long story short Plato believed that the knowledge of these essences, these ideas were innate, but that we have forgotten them at the moment of birth.

By observation we get reminded of these essential ideas...not only regarding real things like horses or triangles, but also, more important, of such abstract concepts like good, right, honest.....

By philosophical reflection we have to get in touch with these ideas again to reach true knowledge.

Let me finish with a simple epistemological statement: I see some creature running by....I say...hey that is a horse....How can I know that that creature is a horse?

It is because of the existance deep inside of my mind of an innate idea of 'horse' and my sensory experience of that running creature awakens the knowledge of that idea.

Thence...certain knowledge is derived from what is in the mind and not what comes from the senses.

Main Resources:
Philip Stokes, Philosophy: 100 essential thinkers
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition

The Discussion
[13:21] herman Bergson: Well....
[13:22] herman Bergson: the first landmark in Western philosophy is set now
[13:22] herman Bergson: The mind as the origin of true knowledge
[13:23] herman Bergson: if you have any questions or remarks..?
[13:23] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Is this suppressed knowledge mystcal or instinctual?
[13:23] Ninjah Valeeva: How can we describe the mind ?
[13:23] Aaron23 DeCuir: there is an interesting parallel to this in OOP - object oriented programming
[13:24] Aaron23 DeCuir: its called the abstract class
[13:24] herman Bergson: Aaron first....;-0
[13:24] Cailleach Shan: Is he saying that we are all born with the 'Collective Unconscious' but that we forget.....until we receive some trigger..
[13:25] herman Bergson: and Cialeach...
[13:25] Aaron23 DeCuir: the abstract class is one that cannot have physical existance
[13:25] Aaron23 DeCuir: but classes derived from it - a physical horse - can
[13:26] herman Bergson: instinctual and collective conscious are psychological terms applied to a period that didnt know of these concepts.
[13:26] herman Bergson: SO I guess Plato's experience this insight in the real Ideas was more or les a mystical thing
[13:27] herman Bergson: a kind of enlightment
[13:27] Lighthorse Wilkinson: But a supernatual thing.
[13:27] Lighthorse Wilkinson: supernatural
[13:28] herman Bergson: I dont think it was meant supernatural
[13:28] Ninjah Valeeva: The light is when we love something !
[13:29] herman Bergson: for Plato the mind was the important thing....the thinking
[13:29] herman Bergson: he was the first who made a clear distinction between body and soul/mind
[13:30] Lighthorse Wilkinson: It seems that the lack of scientific understanding of the brain must have led him to the mystical.
[13:30] herman Bergson: and that mind was imprisoned in the body...a source of sensory impressions that led to only opinions
[13:31] herman Bergson: sure...but that is easy for us to say
[13:31] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Yes.
[13:31] Aaron23 DeCuir: how did he distinquish between the mind and the soul?
[13:31] Ninjah Valeeva: The soul in opposition with the logic ?
[13:31] herman Bergson: he didnt make that distinction
[13:31] herman Bergson: the soul was invented by christianity
[13:32] You: not invented
[13:32] You: discovered
[13:32] herman Bergson: in this context ..with soul I mean NOUS...the greek word for it
[13:32] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Ahhh.
[13:32] Aaron23 DeCuir: and how does that translate?
[13:32] Ninjah Valeeva: The soul is not a mystical thing
[13:32] hope63 Shepherd: like back in ancient egypt..
[13:33] Cailleach Shan: Ah... I have used that expression for years without knowing what it meant.
[13:33] Rodney Handrick: ba?
[13:33] Ninjah Valeeva: Is the music a mystical thing ?
[13:33] hope63 Shepherd: in context with ka..
[13:33] herman Bergson: Ingeneral I think he meant consciousness against sensory impressions
[13:33] Ludwig John: The soul is a religious question and not philosophical
[13:33] Ninjah Valeeva: No !!!!
[13:33] herman Bergson: You are right Ludwig
[13:33] Ninjah Valeeva: I don't think so
[13:34] Lighthorse Wilkinson: How else can it be?
[13:34] Ninjah Valeeva: so
[13:34] herman Bergson: at this momen in time there are three things
[13:34] herman Bergson: body - mind -soul
13:35] herman Bergson: in philosophy we dont occupy ourselves with the whereabouts of the soul
[13:35] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Only because religion says soul exists.
[13:35] Rodney Handrick: true
[13:35] You: NO
[13:35] herman Bergson: we are interested in the mind
[13:35] Manoly Demina: yeah
[13:35] You: stop
[13:35] Ludwig John: otherwise there are only two things
[13:35] You: too many discussions going on
[13:35] You: one at a time pleae
[13:36] herman Bergson: ok Osrum...
[13:36] herman Bergson: back to Plato...
[13:36] herman Bergson: To him the mind is the source of true knowledge
[13:36] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Plato does not mention the soul?
[13:36] herman Bergson: the sensory impressions only lead to opinions
[13:37] herman Bergson: and here the beacons are set....
[13:37] Ninjah Valeeva: Mathematic and inspiration - the same ?
[13:37] herman Bergson: for many centuries of philosophy
[13:37] herman Bergson: what is the source of certain knowledge.....the mind or the sensory impressions
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: it's all about mathematics
[13:38] herman Bergson: Plato said: the mind
[13:38] herman Bergson: I guess to some extend it is....
[13:38] herman Bergson: mathematics is so fascinating...
[13:38] herman Bergson: you only need your mind to come to solutions
[13:38] Lighthorse Wilkinson: And Plato believed that the mind held all knowledge?
[13:39] Cailleach Shan: Is there room for mysticism if it is all in the mind.
[13:39] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:39] Ninjah Valeeva: We know that if we are completely isolated we can't live ..
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: to realize the concept of a horse is not amth...
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: math
[13:39] herman Bergson: no..but Ithink it worked the other way around....
[13:40] Rodney Handrick: then what decides what makes a horse or a human?
[13:40] herman Bergson: the concept of a stands..whatever shape the triangle has.....
[13:40] You: conventions
[13:40] herman Bergson: so why not extrapolate this line of thinking to the sensory experience
[13:41] Ninjah Valeeva: no a triangle is not a square and a square is not a sphere
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: How can we ever know another's experience....
[13:42] Ninjah Valeeva: and when we see a sphere that's not the same when we see a trainagle, we are not impacted as the same way
[13:42] Rodney Handrick: until your look at the sphere at the smallest's not a sphere at all
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: ninjah.. but you can reduce them to geometrical concepts..
[13:42] herman Bergson: I think that the basic feeling of greek philosophers like Plato was that when I can think so clearly about a general concept, for instance triangle, this must be true for many other concepts too
[13:42] Ninjah Valeeva: but it is not the purpose to reduce something
[13:42] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Did Plato speak to varying opinions in regards to the same sensory experience?
[13:43] Ninjah Valeeva: It's just the purpose to apprehend a sphere or a triangle nothing else
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes lighthorse
[13:44] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Did he say that some were abhorant?
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: as a scholra of socrates plato woul dof course seek to reduce from a multitude to the basic ..
[13:43] Ninjah Valeeva: It's just the purpose to apprehend a sphere or a triangle nothing else
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes lighthorse
[13:44] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Did he say that some were abhorant?
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: as a scholra of socrates plato would of course seek to reduce from a multitude to the basic ..
[13:45] herman Bergson: Right
3:45] herman Bergson: Plato knew them quite well
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well....let's conclude with the observation that at this moment in time the mind was the main source of true knowledge
[13:46] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Amen.
[13:47] herman Bergson: and that the sensry impressions only lead to opinions
[13:47] Rodney Handrick: I would say the "collective" mind!
[13:47] herman Bergson: I wouldnt agree to that Rodney
[13:47] herman Bergson: it is a Jungian concept
[13:48] Rodney Handrick: ok
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: which is one of the reasons he wrote about the perfect state?
[13:48] Lighthorse Wilkinson: So the more mind you collect the smarter you can be?
[13:48] herman Bergson: In a way yes, Lighthorse...
[13:48] herman Bergson: Plato thought that philosophers had true access to the Ideas
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: I think it's a question of being aware...not smart. Smart is subjective
[13:49] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Yes.
[13:49] herman Bergson: a creepy thought, in my opinion
[13:49] Lighthorse Wilkinson: With the poplation explosion we we will be very smat soon.
[13:50] herman Bergson: Betrand Russll accused Plato of being totalitarian and undemocrtic due to these ideas
[13:51] herman Bergson: And I agree with that....just the idea there are some people who claim to have the real insight....???!!
[13:51] Ninjah Valeeva: Nice music, here
[13:51] herman Bergson: thank you..
[13:52] You: but many fields of knowledge claim to hold 'special' knowledge
[13:52] Lighthorse Wilkinson: Thank you Herman.
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: Oh no... we are going to restart the sim....
Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-10-18 12:48:12

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