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。
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.
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.
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:
- Riding my scooter is the most convenient for me right now
- Everyone rides their scooter so it is also okay that I ride my scooter.
- 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:
- Hundreds of scooters on the sidewalk interferes with other people's freedoms
- I should not contribute to the overall problem even if everybody else is doing it
- Do I need to ride my scooter? Are there alternatives?
- 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.