Throughout Plato’s writings, often misinterpreted as the sayings of Socrates because, especially in the early dialogues, Plato used Socrates as his voice in the majority of the Platonic Dialogues. For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to Plato because he was the author of Socrates’ words. Of course, it is well known that these Dialogues were written long after the actual conversation, or dialogue, actually occurred. It seems logical to conclude that they constitute Plato’s best use of the actual conversation he recalls to convey the desired philosophical message or lesson.
One of the first things Plato suggests we do as part of living a good life is to Think More. I find it ironic how we put so much work into preparing for almost everything we do so that we do them well. And that is as it should be. However, perhaps sadly, we rarely devote the time to think about us. Time for thinking about whether our ideas are based on the sound application of reason or whether we simply are “going with the flow.” In this, Plato seems to be referring, if he were writing today, to those things society places in high regard like celebrities or high-profile athletes. Not to suggest these people cannot be excellent role models and there are many, many of them, but there are too many that are not. It may seem as if they represent the majority. It is merely what the mainstream media elects to show us for ratings, though the good examples are far more common.
Get to Know Thyself. How? Subject yourself to critical examination.
Rather than simply going with the flow Plato suggests that we must devote time to KNOW THYSELF. In order to get to know ourselves, as Plato suggests, we must spend time proactively thinking about the decisions we make in our daily lives. This will, dare I say it, require us to unplug and focus on ourselves. Analyze our decisions as one might analyze their big presentation at work. Being happy is more important than any presentation and knowing yourself will actually improve your work, but how many of us spend even a few moments to get to know ourselves? Much less spend the time and effort to do so.
Form the Habit – Make the Effort
If we proactively make the effort to strengthen our self-knowledge we are not easily influenced by what our current culture thrusts upon us, which is so often intended to be sensational and create an emotional pull on us. Rather, we must actually make a decision as an act of your will to stop and subject ourselves and our ideas to a critical self-examination. Of course this can be done with another person, but it is not necessary. We can have a Socratic discussion with ourselves. In order to truly “AND bold know thyself”, we must stop and think more.
No matter how it’s done, the important thing is that it is done. Like anything, to make a real difference and become a part of us we must make it a habit. Actually engage in self-examination to make sure to examine the ideas and ensure sound reasoning is behind the decisions we make; and do so on a consistent basis until you no longer even notice it any longer. Easier said than done, but I shall try and hope you will as well.