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unclassified - 12 03 2002 - 22:36 - katatonik

Musings of an avowed materialist

Ah well, it’s time again for a little bit of ye aulde dialectical materialism. You know, folks, there’s this guy called Plato who told a story about beings tied to chairs in a cave. They’re tied at neck and legs, so that they have to remain in one place and can only look ahead at a wall which, because a fire burns behind them brightly, shows them shadows of what’s going on outside the cave.
A fine example of what cruelty the human species is capable of inflicting on each other, including each other’s limbs. Appalling, really.
To this day, the sources of this massive crime have not been uncovered. A huge cover-up, I dare say. Who tied these poor beings to chairs in near darkness – from their infancy no less? Why has noone ever embarked on loosening the strings? Is the cave guarded by wicked agents of whatever cruel powers ordered this atrocity? Of course, one would not reproach these poor tied buggers for not taking their fate into their own hands. Being tied to a chair at neck and legs is not exactly the best position for some good old collective activism. Uprising. Revolution. Sure, no. That’s forgivable.
But what this Plato guy does with the story is totally weird. A fine specimen of ye aulde missing-the-point-idealism. What would happen to these poor beings if they were liberated, he asks. What would, mind you. He’s not going there to help them, or trying to get others together to form a group which could overpower the wicked guardians, should there be any. He’s just asking: what would happen if they were liberated. And then he’s suggesting that the liberated ones would never ever think back, let alone go back, and leave their fellows who might still be sitting there to their miserable fate. For if they went back, they’d be unhappy and no longer content themselves with shadows on the wall. Well, Mr Plato, not everyone’s caught up in the web of Bourgeois individualism, I dare say. Why shouldn’t they try to liberate their fellows and all get a little bit of fresh air and sunlight on the Green beach together, before getting a grip on the means of production? Why not?
Here it comes: if they did try to liberate others, Mr Plato concludes, they’d surely be caught and killed. By whom, one wonders, by whom? The Spartans? Global capital? By false consciousness?

Yeah, Plato http://.../>sucks!

leg (Mar 12, 11:36 pm) #

somehow I think you barbarians may have missed the point... I'm sure I NEVER wrote a word about any CHAIRS! (some of you in the local S/M-bondage-community, perhaps?)

plato (Mar 13, 01:27 pm) #

here's plato again, with his unfailing grip on what's essential to an argument. of course - if these poor beings aren't tied to chairs, but to something else, the whole story is completely different.

foot (Mar 13, 06:33 pm) #

ok, guys, I was kidding about those chairs - but I meant it as an unobtrusive invitation to look up what I actually did write. hell, I'm the first person to admit I was never any good at writing poetry, but I positively can't have my beyooooooootiful little parable so horridly misquoted.
first of all, the whole thing is introduced by the sentence: "Having got so far, he (Socrates) said, please compare our common situation (phýsis), as regards education (paideía) as well as the lack of it, to a suffering like the following" and THEN S. tells about those guys being tied up. he was talking about being stupid and the hardness of making a greater number of people become less stupid; so please don't expect my metaphors to be applicable to something they weren't devised for.
also, these people in the cave weren't idle at all. they discussed things among them - mainly the shadows on the wall, of course, because they never saw anything else. doubtlessly they called this shadow-lore 'natural science'. they formed a democratic community. they were into politics. they held elections - and of course, the guy who could describe the shadows best and sometimes even knew beforehand which shadow would appear next, usually got elected chief, because he was so clever. (I described this at great length, my dears, and in such beyoooootiful Greek, too.)
and then, of course, once in a while one of them would struggle himself free of those rusty chains. he would be very bewildered at first, feeling for the first time that his limbs were stiff, and the fire (which he had never looked at directly) would blind him and hurt his eyes. and it would take a lot of time and trouble till he'd get out of the cave - the rocks were steep, y'know, and you try and go mountaineering when you've been chained to the rock for a lifetime. and when he did get out, at first he wouldn't think the outside world pleasant at all - more of this blinding light, and such awful lots of totally strange things and beings.
at last he would get used to the light and see that it was really wonderful up there, and he would think of his poor fellows still chained down there, and take pity on them. yes, pity; I used that word (éleos). so he'd go DOWN again to free them, not being content with living his new, free, sunlit life alone.
of course, his people in the cave would think him really stupid, because he'd no longer be used to seeing in the dark, and because he wouldn't give the shadows on the wall the importance that they thought due to them. and if he said: "people, this isn't all life has got to offer! there's a whole worls out there to have fun in!" they'd think he'd gone crazy. and if he took a sharp stone to break the others' chains, they'd go: " HEY! don't go rattling my nice old chains, you're hurting me!" and they'd ostracize him, and if they'd got their hands free, they'd at least beat him up. (look what they did to S., a renowned sophist of my hometown - and lots of others.)
as to who chained the poor guys and why - I admit I don't know, and I don't know that I really want to. wasn't there a guy called Gautama (no, not the Hindi teacher) who used to tell that other little tale about the poisoned arrow?

plato (Mar 15, 11:44 am) #

management? what happened to my last log?

plato (Mar 15, 11:58 am) #

oh, it has arrived by now. sorry to have troubled you.

plato (Mar 16, 12:13 am) #

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