Thursday, December 15, 2005

Turning the Tables

Why grant Plato the assumption that there is a single universal definition for a term that is itself only an abstraction of an infinite number of acts or sensations. “What is courage?” We are able to point to an act and call it courageous, very often without great dispute. But this type of answer does not satisfy the Socrates of Platonic dialogue. “I did not ask you to give me examples of courageous acts," he says, "but to define courage, the essential aspect by which all courageous acts are courageous.” What if one of his interlocutors had said something like this to him in response? “Socrates, you ask a deceptive question, because courage is not a single material entity. You have made a noun out of an adjective, a substance out of a quality. Courage exists only in our minds as an abstract universal, as a mental bundling of all those acts. You cannot turn the tables and say that Courage with a capital C makes the acts courageous. You are forcing the intellectually innocent to look at it from the wrong direction. Do not now exploit this contrived confusion to convince us that we view only shadows while you gaze into the light of truth. A few of us actually see through you. You may therefore give up your project to pervert and manipulate human perception through your qualitative, insubstantial, and unreal abstractions.”

No comments: