Posted: June 20th, 2021
This week we’re discussing Plato’s theory of knowledge. He believes that we use an idea of something to classify or figure out where something we’re seeing in life among our ideas.
For example, I have an idea of a triangle so when I see a triangular “Yield” sign along the road I know the shape and, in our traffic sign lingo, that it means to give way or let someone pass before proceeding. But the triangle sign is not a perfect triangle, for example the 3 corners are rounded out to avoid having 3 sharp points.
And we might say also that an Egyptian pyramid is a triangular shape, which it is. But it doesn’t really look anything like the triangle shape of a “Yield” sign. Our ideas must allow for a lot of leeway of things that fit into them. But, at some point, we must say “No” that’s not a triangle, or “No” that’s not a horse, or “No” that’s not love.
You get the point.
To explore Plato’s notion of ideas or ideals, let’s use the question of our idea of “love”. Plato wrote an entire book exploring what love is (it’s called the “Symposium”), and there were many different answers that the speakers in his book proposed. But we’ll use something more modern as a way into our topic for our topic: What is love.”
Rebecca Goldstein’s 2014 book titled “Plato at the GooglePlex, gives a story on what is love, presented as a “Letter to Margo”. Our discussions questions are listed below the “Dear Margo” letter from Goldstein.
Dear Margo: I’m engaged to a wonderful man, who’s highly successful in his field, the same field I’m in. My problem is that my fiancé thinks too highly of me! Somehow he’s gotten an inflated view of how talented and brilliant I am, and no matter how banal a suggestion I make, he infuses it with profound insights. Most of the time these insights are really his own, loosely inspired by some half-baked thing I’ve said. Sometimes he takes ‘my’ opinions so seriously that he uses them to challenge his own views, and ends up proclaiming that only ‘I’ could have seen through his fallacies.
All of this makes me nervous, most of all because I think that eventually, after his infatuation wears off, he’s going to see me for what I am and feel he’s been deceive – which, of course he has been, even if the deception is really self-deception. On the other hand, I have to admit that it feels great to be praised to the skies by someone I so respect. It feels so good, in fact, that I never correct him and just accept the credit and compliments as if I deserved them. What should I do? I love this guy to bits and don’t want to lose him – not now and not in the future when his fog of love lifts.
Teetering on Pedestal
(Rebecca Goldstein, Plato at the GooglePlex, p.267, 2014)
Discussion Questions (answer all):
How would you respond to this letter if you were Dear Margo? Is this love? What makes you sure of your position of the love spoken of here? In other words, what is your idea of love?
Do love and deception have anything to do with each other? And if so, how can any relationship last?
Watch the video linked below on Plato and “What is Love?” and then answer this question: With all the notions of love discussed in the video, how do you imagine Plato might address the letter to Margo?
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