Author Archives: Lindsay Wilson

Socrates’ Disastrous Implication

At 390 c, Socrates invokes a double standard seemingly very contrary to his prior discussion of justice, peace, and virtue. Here, he claims that the ruler of the city has the right to lie to its citizens at times of emergency, whereas the individual should never be untruthful in any situation.

I believe that this is a very ironic statement, in that it goes against much of what Socrates stands for. As a supporter of the power and importance of individualism, this claim that the collective is worth more than the individual in the long run is highly contradictory to much of what he has philosophized before.

Although this is a small point from the several selections we were instructed to read, I cannot help but say that I am very surprised by this claim and somewhat discouraged by it. Socrates has always struck me as a philosopher that encourages the individual to find his or her own path in life and then follow it based off what he or she holds dear in this life, and the value system he or she has created. I would never have expected him to say that the individual must adhere to the will of the city rulers for the greater good, especially if it goes against him or her’s beliefs, and create such a double standard between the collective and the individual.

In my opinion, both the city rulers and individual should be challenged to always be truthful. Just because the city has some control over the lives of its citizens, such as in creating policy and enforcing it, and protecting its people, it should not be given free reign to impose practices based upon deception and dishonesty, even if it is seemingly in the best interest of the people at the time. If the government is told that it is acceptable to lie in times of emergency for the sake of the “greater good,” or collective, such direction would prove disastrous, as it could assume total power, leading to corruption and tyranny in the future.

Although I found the majority of the selected reading to be very thought-provoking and beneficial, I have to say that I was concerned about Socrates’ statement concerning deception, and the city rulers’ right to it when they think it is “necessary,” as its implication degrades the liberty of the individual and allows the government the possibility of assuming total power and forming a tyranny that further damages such free will.

The Inextricable Connection between Knowledge and Experience

As early as the first line of Plato’s Meno, teaching and knowledge are placed in contrast with practice or experience, emphasizing the distinction between these two operations in both meaning and purpose. In this discussion, Socrates and Meno debate the process in which knowledge is acquired, contemplating whether understanding is obtained through instruction, application, or natural causes, which further stresses the difference between teaching and knowledge, and practice or experience.

At first glance, knowledge and experience look very similar to one another. By definition, knowledge is information and skills acquired through experience or education. Similarly, experience is defined as the knowledge or skill acquired by a period of practical experience of something. Although the two words are used in each other’s definitions and are seemingly very similar, a distinction can be made between knowledge and experience.

Knowledge emphasizes theory and the obtainment of information and ideas. Experience, on the other hand, stresses practice, or the application of knowledge over a prolonged period of time, in order to reinforce understanding of subject matter or a certain task. While further knowledge on a subject or task can be gained through experience, experience cannot be obtained through instruction. Experience comes with time, exposure, and practice. It is based off of practical application rather than supposition. Knowledge, on the other hand, is founded upon the accumulation of information through either experience or education. It can be taught unlike experience. Therefore, here lies the greatest difference between the two. While knowledge is the sum of impressions based off of sensation, experience is the act of exercising or challenging knowledge in order to obtain sensation.

I argue that teaching and knowledge, and experience or practice, though different from each other, are inextricably linked by a mutualistic relationship. While knowledge is defined as the obtainment of information and skill through either instruction or experience, practice is described as the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method.  Additionally, while instruction and the obtainment of knowledge are more theoretical and abstract, the implementation of information and understanding is more concrete, in some cases even generating a physical product. In daily life, people are instructed on how to do certain things, and then later go on to practice them in order to reinforce and strengthen their ability to perform. Therefore, teaching, and the knowledge gained from such instruction, provide the foundation for practice of and later experience in the chosen subject matter or certain tasks.

Furthermore, despite their differences in meaning and purpose, knowledge and experience can both be encapsulated in the word wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, common sense, understanding, and insight. Therefore, this term encloses both knowledge and experience within itself, emphasizing not only the difference between the two words but also their mutualistic relationship.

In conclusion, the dichotomy of teaching and practice emphasizes that while teaching and knowledge, and practice and experience are very different operations, they are inextricably linked in that teaching gives people the knowledge to gain understanding and perform certain activities that are further strengthened through practice and experience.