Last Meeting at Plato's Academy  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

What is the secret of birth and death of ideas, beliefs and life itself?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

Everything in our physical and mental worlds is somewhere in a cycle from origin through growth to termination before a new beginning. Seeds sprout, flourish and wither after generating new seeds; governments are established, function and pass into oblivion, only to be replaced by another form of governance.

The secret of stability during this inevitable course is to maintain balance throughout the process.

Ideas: Ideas spring into mind when an individual is physically and mentally prepared and there is a trigger of inspiration. They may be developed or discarded depending on their perceived merit, and once they pass from consciousness, the mind is again open to new ideas. Balance is required between becoming single-mindedly fixated on a single concept and being as flighty as a butterfly, skipping from one idea to the next without developing any.

Beliefs: Beliefs are born of experience, and stubbornly remain to determine thoughts, feelings and behaviors until changed or replaced by new and different experiences. Balance in beliefs is implicit in the adage: “Be not the first by which the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

Life Itself: Life begins at conception and continues through several stages of development both prior to and after birth before the physical body eventually passes to become once again a part of the dust of the earth. We are survived, some believe, by a soul or spirit that finds a new home; but, be this so or not, what we leave behind in the form of progeny and how we have influenced the next and future generations could certainly be considered as a new beginning for the mind that was once a unique individual.

Balance in life itself during our time on earth comes from the extent to which we embrace the opportunities presented to experience the wonder, grandeur and awesomeness of the night sky, to dwell on the beauty we are capable of seeing in nature up close, to participate in the enjoyment to be derived from our accomplishments and to continually strive to expand the love we give and receive in relationships. Afterlife or no, we clearly have this one, and it is our rare opportunity and privilege to enjoy to the fullest.

Why and how do we deceive ourselves?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

When we lie to others, it is in an effort to protect ourselves, gain something that we would not otherwise have, increase in the esteem and admiration of others or avoid being judged or condemned. If lying to others will relieve our own pain or anxiety, a lie is likely to be forthcoming.

And we deceive ourselves for exactly the same reasons.

We do this quite easily and perhaps without even being aware of the process. We do so when we “rationalize” a behavior such as downloading copyrighted music or other material and justify it by saying to ourselves, “Its ok, everybody does it.” By extension, we rationalize every time we “justify” any behavior that we know to be illegal or against our own moral standards.

If I think more highly of myself than is warranted, I am lying to myself. In one study, 90% of the college professors surveyed considered themselves to be in the top half of their profession. Mathematically, 40% had to be lying to themselves! If I considered myself to be God’s gift to women, I would not only be lying to myself, I would be out and out delusional! (Not about being so attractive to women, but about there being a God who dispenses favors.)

When a court of justice calls a defendant to account, it is expected that one guilty of the crime allegedly committed will lie, so proof is required in order to render judgment. The same is true of the individual faced with judgment from family, friends, society…or self! Lying will become the name of the game. I can easily convince myself that it was the other guys fault when an impartial observer would conclude that it was actually my own behavior that caused the accident.

Corporations lie all the time through advertising and an annual reports in order to attract new customers, improve the bottom line and increase the value of their stock. Don’t we do essentially the same thing if we attempt to improve our self-concept by donating to charity, helping a friend in need or writing a letter to the editor denouncing the latest example of governmental graft and dishonesty?

A friend of mine once had a severe pain in her toe. The pain developed suddenly in the situation in which she found herself: she had to walk around all day to accomplish errands that she did not want to do, so her toe developed a severe pain (a very real pain) to tell her to stop walking. The toe pain was a lie to herself in an effort to relieve a stressful situation. The instant she realized what was going on, the pain stopped and she completed her tasks, efficiently if not happily.

Why is it problematic to lie to ones’ self when there are so many reasons for doing so?

What would happen in society if everyone always told the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Why do we get sick?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

There are, of course, many reasons for ill health. Poor nutrition, insufficient rest and exercise, infection and genetic predisposition all can play a prominent role. However, since this is a place for philosophical discussion, let's consider the role our mind plays in our level of wellness.

It is been said that "The power of life and death is in the tongue." This powerful metaphor suggests that negative thoughts in the conscious and subconscious mind can easily sabotage us physically and emotionally as they move us inexorably towards self-destruction.

Fortunately, the converse is equally true. Norman Vincent Peale wrote “The Power of Positive Thinking” which has sold millions of copies. Peale’s methods are not without controversy, but the idea of thinking positively and avoiding a negative mindset is worth considering.

Proverbs 17:22 tell us that “a merrie heart doth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” It is generally accepted that laughter is the best medicine because it reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally, improves the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain, releases endorphins and promotes the production of T-cells that fight infection.

So, as philosophers who agree that positive thoughts are preferable to negative ones (we do agree on that, don’t we?), how can we develop a way of being that promotes a positive, optimistic mind set and life style in ourselves and others? Do we have a responsibility to our families and those around us to project an upbeat and positive attitude? Are we justified in avoiding those who only display gloom and doom?

Can there really be a work/life balance?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

Plato Greybeard did not attend this discussion.  
It was moderated by Plato's Academy good friend, Pamala Clift.

Which do you preffer, to be young or old? Why?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

First comes evidence of a mis-spent youth, then the mid-life crisis and finally senior moments. Not that we need to complain about where we are on this continuum since any place is preferable to the alternative of not being there at all.

Surely, there are advantages at both ends as well as in the middle. The young may enjoy adventurousness, the old a sense of contentment and peace while those in the middle years take great delight in their accomplishments.

As Socrates-asked Cephalus, "Do you sense, as you grow older, a growing liberation from the drives and passions of your youth?" Or are you still driven by your passions? Ah, youth. How well I remember.

It used to be, perhaps several generations ago, that the elderly were not only respected but even revered. This was due, in large measure, to their being the only source for accumulated knowledge and wisdom, and the youth who were developing in wisdom took great delight in learning from their elders. Nowadays, all of the accumulated knowledge one might require may be found by consulting Google. In this sense, the elderly have become superfluous. However, Google will never be able to provide us with wisdom.

It seems that philosophy remains most attractive to the mature and elderly. Perhaps young people are so distracted by the demands and opportunities of daily living that they are rarely concerned with examining why they exist.

As philosophers, we would do well to seek and learn the secret of growing old gracefully while maintaining our sense of dignity.

What are the implications of Greed?  

Posted by Plato Greybeard

In AD 590, Pope Gregory I condemned greed when he included it in his list of seven deadly sins, along with lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

Gordon Gekko, Michael Douglas’ character in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”, praised greed when he said:
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.”

So, with whom do you agree, the pope or the movie character?

Would you agree that one is greedy if they buy simply for the sake of owning rather than based on need?

Is it greedy to acquire as much as possible as long as no one is harmed or deprived in the process? Is it possible to acquire excessively without harming someone else?

Can greed by cured? If so, how? Think in terms of greed having deep psychological roots.

To what extent was greed responsible for the real estate/banking crisis and recession of 2008?

How does greed interfere with relationships? Is it addictive?

Would you agree that greed only becomes problematical when someone else is involved?

Look around you. What do you possess that you don’t need? How would you feel if you were deprived of it?