Self-Reflection And The Philosophical Mirror In Plato's Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy Type: Essay Paper: #468053 Related Topics: Philosophical, Allegory Of The Cave, Nicomachean Ethics, Reflection
Excerpt from Essay :

Self-Reflection and the Philosophical Mirror

In Plato's Socratic dialogue in Apology, Socrates makes the bold declaration that "the unexamined life is not worth living" (Apology 38a). Since I am a great believer in the value of self-examination, this quote seemed to be a perfect opening to my essay. However, as I delved deeper into the text, I began to realize that this quote is often taken out of context. On a surface level, the "unexamined life" concept seems to represent the notion that if we do not reflect on our experiences and apply them to our own lives as an apparatus for learning and self-improvement, then our experiences are of little value. However, on a deeper level, this Socratic proposition stems from the inevitable alienation that an individual experiences by holding true to this. The need to feel that we are part of a group is in many ways an inherent part of being human. There is also a part of most of us that cherishes the time we spend alone, away from the distractions and conflicts that other people can cause. I have personally struggled with this dichotomy on more than one occasion. The challenge, I find, is to fuse these two sides of ourselves so that we can be alone without feeling lonely, and conversely, can feel part of a group without losing our uniqueness and individuality. It is then that we have achieved true wisdom; when others' opinions of us are no longer the determinant of our actions.

The following exchange between Socrates and Crito supports this conjecture:

Soc. But why, my dear Crito, should we care about the opinion of the many? Good men, and they are the only persons who are worth considering, will think of these things truly as they happened.

Cr. But do you see. Socrates, that the opinion of the many must be regarded, as is evident in your own case, because they can do the very greatest evil to anyone who has lost their good opinion?

Soc. I only wish, Crito, that they could; for then they could also do the greatest good, and that would be well. But the truth is, that they can do neither good nor evil: they cannot make a man wise or make him foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance (Crito).

In the end, wisdom for Socrates is a goal that is only attainable through introspection; but it is also one that can never be truly achieved because of mankind's dependency on the influences of others. Thus no one can ever truly be wise unless he exists in isolation, which is a paradox in and of itself in that without anyone around to share one's wisdom with, it is essentially devoid of value.

I have personally always struggled between my desire for social acceptance and my desire for isolation. As such, I not only see the world in accordance with Socrates' speculations in Apology and Crito, but also with the inhabitants of Plato's cave. In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the cave acts as a barrier of protection against the harsh realities of life that are waiting to destroy the innocence from which the womb-like cavern shields its inhabitants. The inhabitants of the cave do not question their existence because it is all they know. So to them, the cave is the only reality; the only truth. Plato's cave is thus a metaphor for the limited realities that mankind allows himself to see: "Like ourselves…they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave" (Plato, Allegory). I have often viewed my surrounding environment as being much like the cave, with the shadow puppets on the wall representing the ignorance of the masses. At times, I too am one of the oblivious, trapped shadows, and at other times I allow myself to break free from unawareness and truly experience self-reflection and an


What accounts for the difference I cannot say for sure, however I tend to believe that it has something to do with my fascination/fear of enlightenment.

I have always admired the Buddhist commitment to walking the path of enlightenment; but at the same time, my fears of what the truth might reveal tend to hold me back from experiencing a full exploration. To this dilemma, Aristotle would likely respond that the problem with remaining in the dark is that it blinds us to the reality of truth; and no matter how harsh that truth might be, it is better to have knowledge than a lack of knowledge. Knowledge is, after all, for Aristotle, the catalyst for good and reasonable actions. Thus in Book I of The Nicomachean Ethics he expresses the following sentiment: "Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim" (111). Later, in Book VI, he states "Excellence then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it" (117). I agree with Aristotle that it is not enough that a person has the knowledge and ability to accomplish what the virtuous person does. He must also accomplish them in the same manner as the virtuous person would accomplish them. This involves not just what gets done, but what state of character the actions achieve.

According to Georgios Anagnostopoulos, Aristotle's view of ethics "constitutes a mode of knowledge that is neither totally nondemonstrative on account of its inexactness nor free of the important epistemological difficulties common to all nonmathematical disciplines" (91). More simply stated, the core of Aristotle's ethical suppositions rests on the notion that ethics apply not only to individual choices, but also communal choices; and they are reliant on both internal and external influences.

The relationship between knowledge and ethics has been a central concern for a myriad of philosophers, including Immanuel Kant. In Kant's view, reasonable action is rooted in knowledge. Kant argues that in order to be truly ethical and make ethical decisions, it is essential that we know 'how' we know and 'what' we know. This cannot be achieved however solely through experience because experience is not definitive (i.e. It is subjective). Therefore in order to be truly ethical in Kant's view, I would have do to more than count on what little knowledge I have to guide me in my decision-making behaviors. For example, at one point in my life I struggled with the decision of whether or not to help a good friend cheat on a paper in a class that he was failing. I certainly had the knowledge that cheating is wrong, and I also had the knowledge that failing this class could have many negative consequences for my friend. However, from a deontological (Kantian) perspective, this limited amount of knowledge was not sufficient to make an ethical decision because as Terry Cooper points out, "when the available moral rules prove ineffective in a particular case, when they conflict with each other, or when the actions they seem to prescribe do not feel right, a fundamental reconsideration of our moral code may be required" (p. 22). It is in precarious situations such as these that ethical dilemmas tend to occur.

I ultimately chose not to help my friend cheat because I felt that while failing to help a friend in need went against my moral fiber, cheating went against it even more. This is how I often resolve ethical dilemmas, and it is also how Kant recommends that such quandaries be resolved. As Steven Cahn…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Anagnostopoulos, Georgios, Aristotle on the Goals and Exactness of Ethics, University of California Press, 1994. Print.

Aristotle, Transl. By David Ross, The Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World's Classics), Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Cahn, Steven M., Classics of Modern Political Theory: Machiavelli to Mill, Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Cooper, Terry. The Responsible Administrator: An Approach to Ethics for the Administrative Role (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass. 2006. Print.
Plato. transl. Benjamin Jowett. "Apology" In The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 2, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1892. Web.
Plato. transl. Benjamin Jowett. Crito. Web.
Plato. transl. Benjamin Jowett. "Allegory of the Cave," In The Republic. Web.

Cite this Document:

"Self-Reflection And The Philosophical Mirror In Plato's" (2010, November 30) Retrieved December 5, 2021, from

"Self-Reflection And The Philosophical Mirror In Plato's" 30 November 2010. Web.5 December. 2021. <>

"Self-Reflection And The Philosophical Mirror In Plato's", 30 November 2010, Accessed.5 December. 2021,

Related Documents
Plato and Milan Kundera's Book
Words: 3254 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 36236465

" (Kundera: 60) at this point, a strong connection between body and soul is forged. Her mother is unwell, and Tereza wants to visit her. However, Tomas opposes this trip so she does not go. Tereza falls in the street hours later and injures herself. What follows is a series of small accidents which are symbols of her soul falling as well: "She was in the grip of an insuperable

Reforming the High School System
Words: 2967 Length: 10 Pages Topic: Education Paper #: 70939676

Introduction Paulo Freire rejected the traditional method of teaching, which consists mainly of passive learning, and advocated a more active learning approach. The style of learning he said worked best at shaping students was something similar to the Socratic method of dialogue and inquiry. This made students more engaged. Instead of sitting in their desks like passive receptacles waiting for information to be downloaded into their brains, they become more like participants

Collapsing Certainties Theme of Collapsing Uncertainties the
Words: 4291 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 52689917

Collapsing Certainties Theme of Collapsing Uncertainties The Collapsing Birth Rate in the Developed World Human beings perceive events, individuals, and objects in different manners in relation to the circumstances and understanding. This is vital towards the development of concept of reality with the aim of continuous leadership, caring, and forms of goodness. This is an indication that human beings believe in whatever they see and purport to be ideal thus generation of

Socrates Said That the Unexamined
Words: 1051 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy Paper #: 44339997

His view is Asian in that it mirrors the view that meaning is found by searching within, that imposing a specific doctrine is not the way to find enlightenment, and that a teacher is a guide rather than a figure of authority. Such ideas are expressed in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other Asian philosophical and religious systems. Socrates takes a very self-effacing position in keeping with the way

Hegel, Heidegger, and Nietzsche on Philosophy
Words: 4868 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Philosophy Paper #: 84044654

Progress of History: Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger For Hegel, the idea of the progress of history was tied to his immersion in the world of Enlightenment and Romantic writers and thinkers. He lived at a time when the French Revolution occurred and reshaped the direction of history. The Revolution expressed and institutionalized new ideas about Reason (literally deified by the Revolution) as well as socio-political philosophy regarding fraternity, equality and liberty.

The Ideals of Grotesque
Words: 2750 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Art  (general) Paper #: 92832846

Grotesque If one goes back to Plato and examines what the Greek philosopher had to say about beauty and truth, one discovers the foundation of the transcendental spirit in the West. The Greek philosophers -- Socrates, Plato, Aristotle -- more or less constructed the philosophical lens for how to portray ideals such as unum, bonum, verum -- the one, the good and the true. Beauty was viewed from within this