March 1, 2018

Think Hard

An excerpt from Book of Life

Plato proposed that our lives go wrong in large part because we almost never give ourselves time to think carefully and logically enough about our plans. And so we end up with the wrong values, careers and relationships. Plato wanted to bring order and clarity to our minds.

He observed how many of our ideas are derived from what the crowd thinks, from what the Greeks called doxa’, and we’d call common-sense’. And yet repeatedly, across the 36 books he wrote, Plato showed this common-sense to be riddled with errors, prejudice and superstition. Popular ideas about love, fame, money or goodness simply don’t stand up to reason.

Plato also noticed how proud people were about being led by their instincts or passions (jumping into decisions on the basis of nothing more than how they felt’), and he compared this to being dragged dangerously along by a group of blindfolded wild horses.

As Freud was happy to acknowledge, Plato was the inventor of therapy, insisting that we learn to submit all our thoughts and feelings to reason. As Plato repeatedly wrote, the essence of philosophy came down to the command to:

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Know yourself.’


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