Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Lead a Good Life: Lessons from the Greeks


This is a summary of the lessons from Stanford professor Marsh Mccall's lecture.  He will be giving it open to the public Wednesday, March 2 2010 at 7:30pm in the Cubberley Auditorium in the School of Education on Stanford's campus.  I was able to find it online on iTunes U.

The goal of the lecture is to take you through different schools of thoughts thus add to your life perspective.

Socrates:

1) The unexamined life is not worth living

2) Wisdom begins with knowing what you don't know

  • 'When I talk to someone who professes to be an expert, they are ignorant, because they don't know what they think they know.  What makes me superior is that I know that I don't know' - Socrates (loose interpreted)
3) Virtue can be taught, education is virtue. (Virtue means excellence or arete)

  • No one does wrong or evil willingly (doing so only means ignorance)
    • Because, to do wrong, to do evil, harms someone else, which harms you, and who would do evil onto oneself?

Plato:

1) Theory of Forms (via wikipedia.org) - the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only an image or copy of the real world. Socrates spoke of forms in formulating a solution to the problem of universals. The forms, according to Socrates, are roughly speaking archetypes or abstract representations of the many types of things, and properties we feel and see around us, that can only be perceived by reason (that is, they are universals). In other words, Socrates sometimes seems to recognise two worlds: the apparent world which is constantly changing, and an unchanging and unseen world of forms, which may perhaps be a cause of what is apparent.
2) Everything should be earned based on merit

Aristotle:

1) We know that life is not comprised of absolutes, it is comprised of an ever shifting scale of moral and ethical relative goods and bads so that in one situation is always a sliding scale of courage, recklessness, and  cowardice.
  • Results in having to collect data and come up with the pragmatic solution case by case

Epicurus:

1) Call to action to be part of a small community
2) Take everything in moderations, concentrate on love and friendship and don't worry about the gods or death.  Detach yourself from the cares of the world.
3) Pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil

No matter what your take on philosophy is and whether you may agree or disagree, there always does seems to be some kind of value in seeing things from a different perspective.

1 comment:

Jeremy White said...

Nice post! I've been getting into philosophy a lot lately. (Big into John Dewey).

Talking about getting adding to your life perspective and Socrates "the unexamined life is not worth living" quote reminds of the concept of defamiliarization. Looking at the life of someone from another culture or another time period to gain perspective on your life. There's an interesting paper by Genevieve Bell about using the technique for design. It's called "Making by Making Strange".