Monday, April 6, 2015

Chapter 4 ~ What's it all about? ~ Socrates Café

The author starts this chapter at a senior center, so here's a photo of two feisty seniors who eat at my table at our senior living facility.  I asked them before sharing, but you can see they were having fun on St. Patrick's Day.  So what's a self?
"I don't think a self is something that can be defined, but can only be revealed.  Our self is who we are, what we say, what we do.  Our self is a perspective, an approach, a disposition, not a thing.  It is a work in progress," said one of the Socrates Café participants (p. 154).
It's also "something he [Socrates] couldn't escape from, even if he's wanted to" (p. 155).  Sometimes, a person "discovered who he was by first discovering who he most definitely was not" (p. 157).  At the end of that session, a student said, "If we'd had discussions like this at my university, I'd soon have a Ph.D. in philosophy" (p. 155).
Does it seem to you that philosophy professors tend "to treat philosophy like a museum piece that only they, the experts, could discuss with authority" (p. 158)?
A few more questions this chapter raises:
  • Can "good" be a what?
  • Can "handsome" be a what?
  • What about "words"?  Someone said words are "our articulated thoughts" (p. 184).
  • Another said, "Becoming is just as much a what as being is" (p. 185).  Do you agree?
  • "Is a unicorn a what?" (p. 187).
As one person said, "I'm starting to wonder if I have any idea what's what" (p. 187).

"I am and always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reflective questioning."
— Socrates (quoted on page 143)


Emily said...

What is a self? I think a self is who we are internally and the part of us that makes us unique. I don't think our inner self changes, but that as we go through life's experiences different aspects of our self are revealed. I think our talents come from our inner self, and that we need to allow them to develop by choosing a variety of interests.

Shirley said...

Great to see your post, Emily.

I agree that self is who we are internally and what keeps us unique. However, I think our self changes as we experience life. I like the idea that our talents are from our inner self and are developed as we explore various interests.

The opening quote from Socrates, "I am and always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reflective questioning" supports my thought that not all of us are guided by reflective questioning. I am apparently one of the nots. Although the questions have been thought provoking, they have also been tedious and made me think that I'd rather be quilting.

Bertrand Russell's criticism (p. 163) of philosophers so involved in "a trivial and uninteresting pursuit to discuss endlessly what silly people mean when they say silly things may be amusing, but can hardly be important" made me smile as I struggled to make it through this chapter.

I got a chuckle out of the comment (p. 182) during the "Why is what?" discussion that this was "mental masturbation". She certainly is more colorful in her descriptions than I am.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Well, ladies, I just found something interesting: Socratic Salon. Yes, someone has created a format where books can be discussed with all comments appearing in the same post. It seems to be so new that they have discussed only three books so far:

1. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum (March 25).
2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (April 1).
3. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (April 8).

Take a look: