September 06, 2006
It happens that I have been tasked to give a series of lectures on Plato's Republic, which is actually the supposed transcript by Plato of his teacher Socrates describing his vision of the ideal society.
So, what has this to do with the doings of "shrinkdom?" Well, a lot actually. This is a key document not only for Western culture in all its forms, but it speaks universally to all cultures in all times and in all places. What Socrates is, after all, is the understanding of what motivates humans and human behavior, how that gets elaborated in all the socio-political constructs that humans evolve from their motivations, and what the effect will be of these various outcomes.
Somewhere over these several years I believe I have quoted in one of my columns the oft quoted line of Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Pretty strong stuff! What sort of examination should we be about making then if we are to take those words to heart?
Socrates like myself was always on the prowl to attract new clients to his mentoring programs and to the equivalent of seminars or workshops that he gave on an ongoing basis to provide a way of making a living. But he had to tread a fine line. The Athens of his day was a kind of democracy, but one where powerful factions set up a governance that relied heavily as does our own and all others, on a lot of myths and patriotic persiflage to maintain the loyalty of the citizens and to assure that enough of them will be willing to defend and if necessary die for their homeland.
The educational process focused on simply learning the myths of the city in an unquestioning manner and not delving deeply at all into the underlying suppositions from which they sprang.
Socrates himself fought very bravely and intensely as a young man in one of the many wars of his day, so he was no stranger to the rivalries and competition for survival that marked the ordinary history of all states in the Mediterranean of that time and of our own. He came to a series of insights, however, that changed his life and manner of finding meaning. He went about as an adult attempting to enlighten whom he could in the art of deconstructing the political facades and ferreting out the true values from the mere puffery of political spin and self interest.
This put him at growing risk of dire consequences from the powers that be and eventually led to his own death by judgment of the Athenian court that he was corrupting the youth and subverting the interests of the state.
Socrates went about engaging optimal candidates for his mentoring, (i.e. the sons of wealthy and influential Athenians) through a questioning dialogue method whereby he skillfully guided the students into surrendering unexamined assumptions and gradually opening their minds to alternative visions of how life could be meaningful and what sort of society would best support that vision. I will say more on this in the next number of columns. Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed counselor, life and marital coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. Find out about his putting minds in motion seminars by contacting him as firstname.lastname@example.org.