柏拉圖教我的事之一 PLATO FOR THE PEOPLE

Posted by Steven Parker / The School of Life Taipei Faculty

14th Sep 2017

在上一篇文章中,我點出哲學的價值,也談到瞭解人們(特別是自己)心中在想些什麼,能對社會帶來極大助益,我想這番論述必定能引起某些人的共鳴。哲學理論或許看似高不可攀,但我始終認為哲學在一般日常中具有舉足輕重的地位,我們需要的不單只是了解其意義,還要把這些想法融入平時生活當中,我想這就是艾倫狄波頓(Alain De Botton)當初創辦The School of Life的動機吧?現在我想進一步把哲學理論運用到我們所處的亞洲。

環顧四周,雖然世界有時並不完美,但生活應該是一件單純簡單的事。若能更了解自己,就能減少與他人溝通時的阻礙。

首先,來聊聊哲學家們的始祖柏拉圖吧。

圓滿(FULFILLMENT

柏拉圖認為若想擁有美好人生,圓滿是其中關鍵。而且,他也指出圓滿與快樂是有所區別的,因為在實現圓滿的過程中,我們很有可能會經歷痛苦與折磨。對需要上班、學習、努力生活的人而言,了解圓滿與快樂之間的差異非常重要。完成工作與課業會讓我們更快樂嗎?有時會,有時則不然。但這些事能讓我們更圓滿嗎?肯定是的。

柏拉圖將圓滿解構成四個主要概念,那就是「多思考」、「明智地愛」、「欣賞美」以及「改善社會」。

今天我想先檢視第一個概念:「多思考」。

多思考

這是我一直提倡的!柏拉圖的意思是,我們應常思考並想得更深入些。柏拉圖不認同所謂的「常理」,對他來說,常理只是多數人的想法,而大多數人都認同而且遵循的思維,並不因此就是正確的。接下來,我又要舉一個跟交通相關的例子,你們一定會覺得我迷戀交通到無可自拔的地步,但我認為從交通模式可看出整個社會的樣態。在台北,機車騎士時常將車停放在商店外的騎樓或人行道。剛開始可能有一兩個人這樣做,接著大家就群起效法,不一會兒人行道就變得無法被行人使用了。這是常理嗎?沒錯,大家都這樣做,甚至也習以為常。但這是對的行為嗎?我可不這麼認為。對柏拉圖而言這就是典型的常理,同時也是愚昧的。

在上述例子中,常理的運作邏輯如下:

  1. 在我準備出門的當下,騎機車最方便
  2. 因為大家都騎機車,所以我也可以騎
  3. 大家都把車停在騎樓人行道,所以我也可以。

如果按照柏拉圖的想法把問題想得更深入些,我們的思考或許可以從結果開始往回推論:

  1. 人行道上停了幾百台摩托車,影響行人的路權。
  2. 即使每個人都這麼停,我也不能這麼做
  3. 我真的非騎機車不可嗎?沒有其他替代方案嗎?
  4. 我決定搭乘大眾交通運輸工具,雖然現在看來稍嫌麻煩。

我們真的需要多思考,少盲從。

將焦點拉回開頭提到的圓滿。把車停在人行道上妨礙路權,除了短暫的方便外,看不出還能帶來些什麼?但做出另一種選擇,進而改善周遭民眾的生活,卻能讓每個人感到更大的滿足。

多思考吧! 

 

In a recent piece I wrote about the value of Philosophy and how an understanding of how people think (especially ourselves) would greatly help everyone. It obviously resonated with a few people.  And it also got me thinking just how important philosophy is to our daily lives.  Philosophical theories may seem overly highbrow but perhaps what we need is not just the philosophers' theories but rather a way to connect those theories to our everyday lives. That's kind of what Alain De Botton was thinking about when he started The School of Life, right? But I want to take it one step further and set the theories in the world that we live in, here, in Asia.

Looking at the world from my - admittedly less than perfect - perspective life should be fairly simple.  If we understand ourselves then we can better communicate with others.

I want to start with the Great Grand Daddy of philosophers himself, Plato.

FULFILLMENT

Plato had this notion of fulfilment as being the key to a good life. He included the possibility of pain and suffering as a part of fulfillment and so differentiates this from happiness. This notion of fulfilmentversus happiness is one that should connect with all of us who have to work, live, study, do anything at all. Can these things make us happy? Sometimes, maybe. Can they bring us fulfilment?  Definitely.

Plato broke fulfilment down into four central ideas; Thinking More, Loving Wisely, Appreciating Beauty, and Changing Society for the Better.

Today I want to have a look at the first notion; the notion of thinking more.

THINK MORE

This is what I have been saying all along!  Plato's idea is that we need to think harder and more often. He rejects the notion of a "common sense" as for him common sense is just what the crowd thinks. Just because everyone agrees or follows a certain path does not make it right. It may seem that I am obsessed with traffic but I honestly believe that you can tell a lot about a society by how they behave regards transport.

In Taipei we regularly see Scooters parked on the footpath outside a shop; it starts with one and then everyone follows suit.  Pretty soon the footpath is unusable. Is this common sense?  Yes, it is. Because everybody does it and feels okay with it.  But is it right? I would argue that clearly it is not. To Plato this is the definition of common sense - and also stupidity.

In this situation the common sense logic runs something like this:

  1. Riding my scooter is the most convenient for me right now
  2. Everyone rides their scooter so it is also okay that I ride my scooter.
  3. Everyone parks on the footpath so I can park on the footpath.

Following Plato's reasoning to think harder, our thought processes might instead start with the result and work backwards:

  1. Hundreds of scooters on the sidewalk interferes with other people's freedoms
  2. I should not contribute to the overall problem even if everybody else is doing it
  3. Do I need to ride my scooter?  Are there alternatives?
  4. I decide to take public transport even though this may seem slightly less convenient at this moment.

We clearly need to think more and follow less.

Coming back to that pursuit of fulfilment we spoke of at the start; I find it hard to see how blocking off a footpath could bring you anything other than momentary gratification.  but I can see how a decision that improves the lives of everyone around you would lead to us feeling better about the way we live.

Think More

 

 

 

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