недеља, 02. децембар 2012.

Modern Plato

About 2,400 years ago Plato divided the world in an interesting way (what is known as the analogy of a line). That will find its place in this blog today. It will be used to discuss some very current issues.

He said that the things in the world can be viewed as belonging to either of the two realms: of the visible or of the invisible. Both of these have in themselves two parts. So let's start:

The world of the visible consists  of the physical things, objects, such as chairs and horses. Further it consists of the shadows or reflections of those things. So like the shadows of chairs and hourses and refections of these things in water or in the mirror would belong here.

This world, ironically for today, is the lower world, less valuable in a way. And respectfully, within this lower world, the reflections of the visible things stand hierarichically  lower than (physical) things themselves.

Here is a picture of me:

I seem quite happy, being a physical object on a bike, on one of the Dutch islands.

But at the same time, here I am, typing this blog right now. I am what I am now, and what you see on the photo (and I see it as well) is merely a reflection of me.

The modern technology enables us to capture the reflections of things, and preserve them for longer time.

Now, the invisible world is for Plato much more signifacant. It consist of the mathematical objects, reasoning which includes certain accepted hypotheses (for example geometry, which has certain axioms which are not questioned, like: "between two dots only a single line can be drawn", or any reasoning in the empirical sciences, when exploration is used to further develope the existing theories, without questioning the fundamental assumptions). It is because of this realm that this blog is at all possible. Because for blog you need internet, for internet you need computers, for computers... You need plenty of thinking and figuring things out (doing things which are not visible) in order to make technology, like internet, possible (thing, which is visible). So far so good.

But I can freely claim that without the last category, which represents the highest world according to Plato, there also would be no mention of this blog. The reason is that the very essence of this blog is thinking in terms of philosophical insight, which represents the world of ideas. In that world (the upper world of the invisible realm) you question the hypotheses and suppositions themselves. You ask about the meaning of things and why you should or should not do certain things. It is in this world that you can think about what does it mean to write a blog, or to read about Plato and try to understand what he means to say.

I disagree with Plato that the world of physical objects is less valuable than the world of things. I am a great fan of looking at things and enjoying the aesthetics of them, whether it is Nature, people, streets, or little details. I think in fact that we pay too little attention to just seeing things. Purely. As they are.

I do however agree with Plato, that the visible things themselves are higher than their reflections. Talking with a friend is higher than chatting with him online. Saying things that really matter to you to another person is higher than saying something cool to 500 people who you have as "friends" on Fakebook... oh, I'm sorry: Facebook.

And I do think that science and technology are important and give us many opportunities. But if it has no humane direction, if it does not serve us but enslave us (think about not being able to resist spending two hours on facebook every day, or looking at your cell phone every 5 minutes...) I am not sure what is the meaning of it. With other words, I doubt that the lower realm of the invisible things, which is so strongly stimulated by the society today for the sake of the world of visible things (and in most cases in purely utilitaristic terms) will survive on its own.

I think we do need to consult the realm of philosophy, though we needn't call it the highest, and questions the hypotheses themselves. To ask where are we going with all this technology and what is the reason for things we are doing. Wikipedia offers you information about every possible thing that you can imagine. But it cannot tell you to look up Plato and connect it to the world of technology today. It offers you to be reachable every single moment via cell-phone. But who wants to be reachable every single moment? It offers you to communicate with people on distance and with many people at the same time. But is talking with many people at the same time on distance as meaningful as seing another person, one person, in front of you, and look her in the eyes while you share something that is important to you?

[The last part has no images, because: it is the invisible world ;)]