Plato’s original idea was that there IS such a thing as ‘absolute truth’. Plato’s ‘truth’ idea (like all his ideas) was a product of his imagination.
He was the younger friend of Socrates whom he admired greatly and who was also his mentor. It was Socrates who invented the interrogatory style of argument involving strings of questions seeking either a YES or NO response. It’s an old dinosaur known as the Socratic Method but it still survives in our legal system and Westminster system of parliament.
Both Socrates and Plato became two of the greatest thinking hackers in Western history. To me, the most fascinating of Plato’s works is ‘Symposium’ because it’s an insightful account of how it all began at a typical dinner-party back in Athens, around 400 BC, with Plato, Socrates and a few friends.
Symposium is witty, entertaining and shows how their discussions and banter, laced with much wine and bawdy gossip, produced a small collection of thinking ploys, concepts, software and viruses that, amazingly, have dominated Western thinking right up to the 21st century.
Most destructive of all these inventions has been the Plato Truth Virus.
In the Western world, Plato is recognised as the one who put thinking on the map. Plato figured that the more one thought about matters and the more one tried to discover and understand their true essence or form, the more insights one could experience. But he also decided (and this is the killer) that thinking was NOT an open-ended process. Plato figured there must be a finite end to a thinker’s relentless search for meaning, an ultimate destination to a thinker’s efforts, so he called that destination objective ‘truth’.
Uh-oh! Big mistake!!
Today, 2,500 years later, much of Western society still behaves as though there actually such a thing as absolute truth. Somehow oblivious to real world consequences, many Western universities and colleges are full of discussions about ‘truth’, right’, ‘wrong’, ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘honesty’, ‘justice’ and so on.
This all spills out into society so that Big Government, Big Religion, Big Business, Big Brother and other groups invoke these ‘absolute truths’ as the basis for their policies and the justification for their actions – so often with horrific consequences.
The trouble was that once Plato had invented his truth concept, it existed. Subsequently, when other philosophers or theologians came along Plato’s invention infected their ideas like a virus – and so we name the virus after him, the Plato Truth Virus or PTV.
Gradually the activity of thinking came to be subverted by the insidious truth virus. Some thinkers inevitably claimed to have found … The Truth.
PTV, the truth virus, began to infect the thinker’s set of intellectual claims and so we see a number of philosophies and doctrines and movements that claimed to have discovered absolute truth and gave notice of filing their claims: Stop looking! … We have the truth! … We are right, you are wrong! … We are good, you are evil! … Believe in the truth or be damned! … The truth is on our side! … We know what’s right! Do what we tell you, or else! … Crush the infidel! … Kill the unbeliever!
The problem for the observer is the number of conflicting claims of owning absolute truth and unique rightness. The seductiveness of PTV is also what makes it so destructive and deadly: everyone wants to be the one who has The Truth. Therefore, everyone infected with the virus claims to be uniquely right and that’s where the carnage begins.
From time to time teachers like Buddha, Jesus and Confucius have emerged in the different cultures of the world. Most people are relatively free of PTV and so many have benefited from their teachers’ messages of goodwill.
However, there are those who seek power over others.
Sadly, these great teachers are often upstaged by greedy PTV-infected franchisees who claim to have exclusive rights on their teacher’s intellectual property. Who can blame the original teachers for the sickness of their followers?
So often, in the name of peace and goodwill, infected followers fight with a sick rage and burning hatred. The brain virus so distorts the original message that it would be unrecognisable to the original messenger.
People have become more interested in the ‘truth status’ of the message than the message itself. Perhaps it is more important to be an ‘effective follower’ than to be a ‘right follower’.
Truth ‘R’ Us
Here is small sample of rude, impertinent and selfish PTV-infected claims which have long since upstaged those claims made by the original teacher:
… is unerring and Divine … outside of Christian Science all is vague and hypothetical, the opposite of Truth.
the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists is the highest authority that God has upon earth.
… alone are God’s true people, and all others without exception are followers of the Devil … At Armageddon all of earth’s inhabitants except Jehovah’s Witnesses
will be wiped out of existence.
There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints … everybody, unless they repent and work righteousness, will be damned except Mormons.
None but Christadelphians can be saved.
Mohammed is the messenger of God … the last, and final exponent of God’s mind, the seal of the prophets.
The Divine Light Mission:
The Guru Marahaj Ji alone has the key to the knowledge of the source of God.
The Unification Church:
OnIy the Lord of the Second Advent, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, will be powerful enough to complete the restoration of man to God.
(Wait there’s more! The rest of this rather long and heavy lesson will continue day after tomorrow.)
Cut and paste the one sentence you find most annoying from this first part of the lesson.
Why do you think this annoys you?