On reading these lessons about PTV, trainees often ask: “But, aren’t these very SOT lessons presented as The Truth?”
I usually answer something like: “No. These lessons are not presented as The Truth. They are presented as ‘a more likely’ truth and that’s not the same thing.”
The different views offered in these lessons may not be the ones pushed by many of the the mainstream authorities but they are researched and presented in good faith. The facts stated can easily be checked out with your own research and I encourage you to do so.Â Google makes it much easier for you to do this.
Mistakes and Faults
Where SOT trainees have found faults or where mistakes have been brought to our attention they have been rectified and there are, no doubt, many more flaws in these imperfect lessons.
Provocation and Tactlessness
Although these lessons may be presented somewhat tactlessly they have value in the provocation they give to those who are willing to explore them. Since we are exploring the subjects of ‘truth’ and ‘thinking’ we cannot avoid exploring the history of religion and science. Discussing religion without deference sometimes seems tactless and is too much for some people but is refreshing for others. The individual thinker must make up his/her own mind on this.
Not ‘The Truth’
SOT lessons are certainly not The Truth to be believed in. That would be exactly the opposite of the purpose for these lessons. Their value lies in the thinking you do about them and the effort you take to form your own opinions. Always remember, if you don’t do your own thinking, someone else will do it for you.
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods. – Albert Einstein, thinker and scientist.
Anytime someone says something with great confidence, check to see whether or not it’s true!
– Noam Chomsky, cognitive scientist and activist
Wide and independent reading–self-education is what matters.
– Patrick White, Australian novelist, 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Now let’s continue our exploration of Plato’s Truth Virus or meme. If Plato was the hacker who invented the truth virus, Aristotle was the first to package it into a powerful cognitive operating system or thinking software package.
Aristotle started off as a student in Plato’s academy and remained there for twenty years until Plato, his mentor, died. By the time Plato died Aristotle was thoroughly infected with his mentor’s truth virus and did much to establish ‘the search for certainty’ as the basis of all intellectual endeavours.
Aristotle became a passionate and obsessive truth freak. Plato only went as far as saying that truth was what lay at the long end of a thinker’s search, an ultimate destination. Not enough for Ari … No sir! Aristotle said “I want truth! I want it here! I want it now!”
Aristotle went on to insist that the ordinary fuzzy jumble of our daily reality was just not tidy enough. So, to bring order to the world he imposed a kind of truth template over everything.
Mail sorting and Labelling
Aristotle’s medium was language. He assumed that the certainty of words could give certainty to the ineffable flow of experience. The untidy chaos of reality offended Aristotle’s ordered, PTV-infected mind so he decided to break everything up into pigeonholes and categories – kind of like mail sorting and labelling.
This goes here, that goes there, stick this label on this and that label on that! Let’s just tidy everything up. Yessir. A place for everything and everything in it’s place was Aristotle’s motto.
In his classifying fervour Aristotle made up pigeonholes and sorted our daily reality into them. He tried to invent slots for everything. For example, he set about sorting ‘government’ into categories like: ‘constitutional’, ‘tyrannical’, ‘monarchy’, ‘aristocracy’, ‘oligarchy’, ‘democracy’.
He then got busy breaking everything up into subjects like: politics, ethics, rhetoric (speech-making), metaphysics, physics, biology, meteorology. Finally, he invented his very own thinking software called logic.
Aristotle’s Silly Syllogism
Aristotle’s thinking software was already infected with the Plato Truth Virus from day one. For logic, Aristotle invented his silly syllogism. I say it’s silly because it lacks wisdom and sense.
The syllogism starts with the so-called ‘truth’ as its premise. Then one simply matches up items that come along and out pops your conclusion. Simple really … and very silly.
TRUTH: All swans are white.
ITEM: This is a swan.
LOGICAL EXTENSION: Therefore it is white.
TRUTH: Salespeople tell lies.
ITEM: Amy is a salesperson.
LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Therefore Amy is lying.
TRUTH: Our church is the right church.
ITEM: You are not a member.
LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Therefore you are wrong.
TRUTH: The earth is flat.
ITEM: Therefore it has an edge.
LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Therefore you will fall off the edge if you go too far from shore.
TRUTH: The President is the law.
ITEM: The President did something.
LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Therefore it is legal
(Aristotle’s Logic software caused Nixon to believe this was so).
TRUTH: A boss’s opinion is best.
ITEM: You are not a boss.
LOGICAL CONCLUSION: So when we want your opinion we’ll give it to you.
No Contradictions, Please!
For Aristotle, just thinking wasn’t good enough. No, you have to think logically.
Logic is obsessed with hunting down contradictions. In logic, a thing cannot be
in box A and box NOT A at the same time. No, it must be sorted and classified
into the ‘correct’ box.
Although real life is full of contradictions and paradoxes (is the glass half full or half empty?) this was just not good enough for our man Aristotle. Things must be cut up into pieces like a jig-saw and then sorted into their ‘true’ categories.
Judging: Right and Wrong – Black Hat Thinking
Life, according to Aristotle, is a matter of sorting things out into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Judgement is the key activity. This is right. That’s wrong. I’m right. You’re wrong. This is black. That is white. This is American. That’s un-American. This is good. That is bad. This is the right answer. That is the wrong answer.
Greyness? Fuzziness? Uncertainty? Open-endedness? Contradiction? Paradox? Well, we cannot have that sort of thing around here. You’ve got to sort things out! Clean up your act! Get things right! In Aristotle’s Lyceum, everything was covered by rules, rules, rules. The living arrangements, the study courses, the timetables were all dominated by rules and regulations.
Ancient Brain Software
Aristotle craved order. He loved the order that his classifications brought to his ideas and thoughts. He assumed that the same order that he found he could impose on words and language could also be imposed on the real world. Many have made the same mistake.
Aristotle’s cognitive operating system, logic, has dominated Western education for far too long. How come we still think this way 2500 years after old Ari joined Socrates and Plato on Mount Olympus? How come this ancient software has survived so long? Who kept it alive? Who spread it around? Who programmed it into your brain? We will discuss this in the next lessons.
Let’s Be Fair
Having said all this, let’s now be fair. Of course, Aristotle made a great contribution that was needed at the time. My point is how the use of logic has been subsequently distorted by people, institutions and societies.
What I am doing in the lessons is a few things:
– being deliberately provocative
– balancing some of the obsession with ‘logic’ by attacking its ‘mystique’
– referring to the less precise ‘common usage’ of logic not the ‘academic precision’ of logic as Aristotle himself set it out.
Often when the average person says ‘salesmen tell lies’ they behave as though they really said
‘ALL salesmen tell lies’ etc.
Beyond Critical Thinking
It was the School of Thinking which introduced the idea of ‘teaching thinking as a skill’ into the schools in the US and Australia and helped develop the model for teaching thinking in other countries around the world.
By 1983, SOT thinking lessons had already reached over 50 million people worldwide and this was long before the internet. This all began with SOT’s Learn-to-Think Project which I started with Edward de Bono in 1980 in New York.
Edward and I co-authored a book, The Learn-To-Think Coursebook and Instructors Manual (Second Edition. 1982. Capra New. Santa Barbara), in which he wrote the following:
What would I expect from a member of the School of Thinking?
I would expect a trained person to posess a great deal of wisdom and common sense. This arises from an ability to see any situation in a broad perspective. Wisdom is quite different from the sort of cleverness that is taught in school. Cleverness may be alright for dealing with puzzles but wisdom is required for dealing with life.
We tried to encourage teachers to teach their students to go beyond critical thinking to lateral thinking. In SOT training, the only thing you are asked to criticise is your own thinking.
Have a look around. Try to notice Aristotle’s PTV-infected logic software in operation. You should try to notice it in your own mental information-processing and also in that of others. Look for it in this training. Look for evidence of the virus in today’s newspaper and on TV. Also, try to notice it in institutions and in common situations you come across in the next 24 hours. It is so pervasive that you may have difficulty noticing the very subtle manifestations.
Give an example of PTV-infection that you may have noticed in your own thinking: