“I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts.”

“I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts.” Plato

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Kyracatures 2013: Cracked Rock on Lower East Side

Ethnomusicology and anthropology students in the past suggested that I should teach philosophy. I do. Last academic calendar year I taught political sociology which allowed me to appreciated more of my interests in the philosophies of women, children, and men.

A student who thinks one forges a separate path by always dissenting from his peers has been overlooking requests I made of him. In other words, straying from a clear path or not truly listening to others including perhaps himself. I want to nudge him inside of some missteps he is making with some ruthless compassion in a gentle way. I often seek a quote for this purpose. It’s not simply me doing the nudging.

I have a quote from Plato I always include in my syllabus: “The point of maximum learning is the point of maximum confusion.” I searched on Google and ran across “confusion” in a passage from The Republic written 360 B.C.E translated by Benjamin Jowett.
I am including a long inquiry about objectivity and subjectivity that surrounds a passage that mentions confusion. This is brilliantly capturing what I am discovering about myself.

I am learning how to bring a new kind of objectivity to my life and my writing that obtaining a Ph.D. and teaching for 15 years never before revealed to me. Here’s to Plato and the Socratic method that explores questions not facts.

That there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them?

Yes.
And the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which nature or the artist has intended them.

True.
Then the user of them must have the greatest experience of them, and he must indicate to the maker the good or bad qualities which develop themselves in use; for example, the flute-player will tell the flute-maker which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer; he will tell him how he ought to make them, and the other will attend to his instructions?

Of course.
The one knows and therefore speaks with authority about the goodness and badness of flutes, while the other, confiding in him, will do what he is told by him?

True.
The instrument is the same, but about the excellence or badness of it the maker will only attain to a correct belief; and this he will gain from him who knows, by talking to him and being compelled to hear what he has to say, whereas the user will have knowledge?

True.
But will the imitator have either? Will he know from use whether or no his drawing is correct or beautiful? Or will he have right opinion from being compelled to associate with another who knows and gives him instructions about what he should draw?

Neither.
Then he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about the goodness or badness of his imitations?

I suppose not.
The imitative artist will be in a brilliant state of intelligence about his own creations?

Nay, very much the reverse.
And still he will go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good or bad, and may be expected therefore to imitate only that which appears to be good to the ignorant multitude?

Just so.
Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, and the tragic poets, whether they write in iambic or in Heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree?

Very true.
And now tell me, I conjure you, has not imitation been shown by us to be concerned with that which is thrice removed from the truth?

Certainly.
And what is the faculty in man to which imitation is addressed?
What do you mean?
I will explain: The body which is large when seen near, appears small when seen at a distance?

True.
And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the illusion about colours to which the sight is liable. Thus every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and of deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.

True.
And the arts of measuring and numbering and weighing come to the rescue of the human understanding-there is the beauty of them –and the apparent greater or less, or more or heavier, no longer have the mastery over us, but give way before calculation and measure and weight?

Most true.
And this, surely, must be the work of the calculating and rational principle in the soul

To be sure.
And when this principle measures and certifies that some things are equal, or that some are greater or less than others, there occurs an apparent contradiction?

True.
But were we not saying that such a contradiction is the same faculty cannot have contrary opinions at the same time about the same thing?

Very true.
Then that part of the soul which has an opinion contrary to measure is not the same with that which has an opinion in accordance with measure?

True.
And the better part of the soul is likely to be that which trusts to measure and calculation?

Certainly.
And that which is opposed to them is one of the inferior principles of the soul?

No doubt.
This was the conclusion at which I was seeking to arrive when I said that painting or drawing, and imitation in general, when doing their own proper work, are far removed from truth, and the companions and friends and associates of a principle within us which is equally removed from reason, and that they have no true or healthy aim.

Exactly.
The imitative art is an inferior who marries an inferior, and has inferior offspring.

Very true.
And is this confined to the sight only, or does it extend to the hearing also, relating in fact to what we term poetry?

Probably the same would be true of poetry.
Do not rely, I said, on a probability derived from the analogy of painting; but let us examine further and see whether the faculty with which poetical imitation is concerned is good or bad.

By all means.

That there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them?

Yes.
And the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which nature or the artist has intended them.

True.
Then the user of them must have the greatest experience of them, and he must indicate to the maker the good or bad qualities which develop themselves in use; for example, the flute-player will tell the flute-maker which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer; he will tell him how he ought to make them, and the other will attend to his instructions?

Of course.
The one knows and therefore speaks with authority about the goodness and badness of flutes, while the other, confiding in him, will do what he is told by him?

True.
The instrument is the same, but about the excellence or badness of it the maker will only attain to a correct belief; and this he will gain from him who knows, by talking to him and being compelled to hear what he has to say, whereas the user will have knowledge?

True.
But will the imitator have either? Will he know from use whether or no his drawing is correct or beautiful? Or will he have right opinion from being compelled to associate with another who knows and gives him instructions about what he should draw?

Neither.
Then he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about the goodness or badness of his imitations?

I suppose not.
The imitative artist will be in a brilliant state of intelligence about his own creations?

Nay, very much the reverse.
And still he will go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good or bad, and may be expected therefore to imitate only that which appears to be good to the ignorant multitude?

Just so.
Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, and the tragic poets, whether they write in iambic or in Heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree?

Very true.
And now tell me, I conjure you, has not imitation been shown by us to be concerned with that which is thrice removed from the truth?

Certainly.
And what is the faculty in man to which imitation is addressed?
What do you mean?
I will explain: The body which is large when seen near, appears small when seen at a distance?

True.
And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the illusion about colours to which the sight is liable. Thus every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and of deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.

True.
And the arts of measuring and numbering and weighing come to the rescue of the human understanding-there is the beauty of them –and the apparent greater or less, or more or heavier, no longer have the mastery over us, but give way before calculation and measure and weight?

Most true.
And this, surely, must be the work of the calculating and rational principle in the soul

To be sure.
And when this principle measures and certifies that some things are equal, or that some are greater or less than others, there occurs an apparent contradiction?

True.
But were we not saying that such a contradiction is the same faculty cannot have contrary opinions at the same time about the same thing?

Very true.
Then that part of the soul which has an opinion contrary to measure is not the same with that which has an opinion in accordance with measure?

True.
And the better part of the soul is likely to be that which trusts to measure and calculation?

Certainly.
And that which is opposed to them is one of the inferior principles of the soul?

No doubt.
This was the conclusion at which I was seeking to arrive when I said that painting or drawing, and imitation in general, when doing their own proper work, are far removed from truth, and the companions and friends and associates of a principle within us which is equally removed from reason, and that they have no true or healthy aim.

Exactly.
The imitative art is an inferior who marries an inferior, and has inferior offspring.

Very true.
And is this confined to the sight only, or does it extend to the hearing also, relating in fact to what we term poetry?

Probably the same would be true of poetry.
Do not rely, I said, on a probability derived from the analogy of painting; but let us examine further and see whether the faculty with which poetical imitation is concerned is good or bad.

By all means.

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