Wednesday, 01 April 2015 20:00

2. Platonic thinking in philosophical practice

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The idea of Matrix-thinking was introduced by Plato in his dialogues. For example, when he takes up the issue of virtue in Meno, he is not arguing linearly. He takes into consideration the special character of Meno, a well-known politician of his time, famous for the mercenary army he led for the Persians.

Xenophon tells about Meno:

the mainspring of his action was obvious; what he sought after insatiably was wealth. (...) If it were a perjured person or a wrongdoer, he dreaded him as well armed and intrenched; but the honourable and the truth-loving he tried to practice on, regarding them as weaklings devoid of manhood. And as other men pride themselves on piety and truth and righteousness, so Menon prided himself on a capacity for fraud, on the fabrication of lies, on the mockery and scorn of friends. (Anabasis)

So at the beginning of the dialogue Meno pushes Socrates to give an answer to what "virtue" is. Socrates instead flatters Meno and asks him for his answers. This scenario presented by Plato shows the context in which Socrates starts an analysis on the consequences of each one of Meno´s hypothesis. There are two levels that go along the discussion: the arguments and, on the practical level, the agreeing with Meno and keeping being his "friend" so that he would feel free to attack Socrates with all his arguments and passion. And even so, or because of this, he and the external observer will gain a deeper insight about what virtue might be.

The same happens in a philosophical café or group session. Many come with their own agenda. Some might be seeking recognition in the eyes of others by putting down somebody specific or anybody randomly, some may have come to make a general statement, etc.

If we do not let that person freedom to act, he will be on guard at the session, as would Meno, and the discussion might flow nicely at the surface. Nevertheless, that person has not been totally present at the session. If we let him show his personality (respecting some concrete rules) he will, despite his own will, show himself as he is every day. So we will bring up for reflection the different interconnected aspects of ourselves: words, emotions and actions.

To overview this interaction inside each one and in relation to each other in the session, matrix thinking is needed.



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Carmen Zavala

I am  a philosophical practitioner with a PhD in Philosophy by the National University of San Marcos . Since 1998 I co-organize a philosophical café in Lima every Saturday evening. I also organize philosophical workshops, retreats, and individual counseling sessions. Together with Ran Lahav I adminstrate the Agora Webpage  since 2014. My personal website is