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Learner's Paradox

04-08-2016, 01:11 AM #1
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Socratic thought has always intrigued me, especially when expressed through the words of his most versed student, Plato. Alfred North Whitehead, the British Mathematician and philosopher once said "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." A fairly powerful statement that provides a great summation of the importance of Plato in philosophical literature. Today I wish to discuss with other members on this board the Learner's Paradox which is so eloquently expressed in Plato's Meno. In this dialogue Socrates and Meno are going back and forth in the typical method of elenchus that is the hallmark of Socratic dialogues. The Socratic method always results in the state of Aporia which is a Greek word meaning "state of loss, lack of further direction or lack of how to proceed further." A state of puzzlement so to speak.

The Learner's Paradox focuses on how to acquire knowledge when one does not know what they are trying to acquire. In this dialogue (Plato's Meno), Meno eventually is grounded by aporia and realizes that him and Socrates fail to ever come to a conclusion on how to define what virtual really is. This leads to the dilemma that if we cannot define what virtual is how can we look for it when we don't even know what it is at all. How do you search or know something which you do not know?

Plato calls this the debater's argument; he claims that for any X one either knows or doesn't know X. If one does know X one does not need to inquire about X because there is no need to search as you know it. If one does not know X then one cannot inquire about X because one does not know what to look for. In both cases one cannot inquire about X. So how do you truly learn?

Plato raises an interesting theory to discuss this point (and it ties in with his metaphysics). Plato claims that our soul is immortal; since our soul is immortal it has therefore learned everything. He further states when a soul incarnates into a body the soul forgets what it has already learned; from this point on the soul begins a process of recollecting what it already knows. The knowledge is already known by the soul but is forgotten and thus an individual must search for the knowledge to uncover it; the truth is in one self. Learning then becomes a process of recollection in which the soul comes to remember what it already knew.

What is everyone's thoughts on recollection/self-questioning (which is a hallmark of the Socratic Method) as a means to gaining knowledge?

I Self Lord And Master
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04-08-2016, 01:39 AM #2
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Not quite the same thing as self questioning/recollection... But in the last few years I've gained insight to "reincarnation" via some strange experiences.

I started speaking in a foreign language in my sleep. Then while awake out loud when stressed, and further began writing in it if I tried.

I thought it was glossolalia or tongues, or hysteria.

Until I looked up the words I'd been speaking, to find out I was talking in Old High German, or Low Old German, via researching the vocabulary.

I also have weird visions and dreams that would make more sense if the memories had been acquired in 900-1100 AD, in what would become Germany.

As for the Socratic method, I've always been interested, but it leads me to extreme nihilism. Some boundaries my mind doesn't like to cross.

I always struggle with, if I don't know "x" how will I know when I've found the solution to "x".

It's not as easy as algebra when dealing with real life, and not numbers, ha-ha.
This post was last modified: 04-08-2016, 01:42 AM by Trenton.

The most high exalting and I ain't halting 'til I die of exhaustion and inhale my exhaust fumes.
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04-08-2016, 08:40 AM #3
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Awesome thread topic.

How do we learn about something when we don't know what it is?

In my opinion, it's because there are different types/strokes/levels of knowledge which relates to X - the lower levels, if you will, are the initial ideas we create ourselves which then evolve/stem to learning about X, therefore knowledge is based on previous knowledge.

For instance, let's say X = How to peel a lemon, we know what a lemon is, we know it's 3D and therefore it may/may not have a core - it's up to us to discover how to reach said core, therefore we begin to learn/know X.

It's not the best example I can give but I hope it conveys what I'm trying to say lol.

In regards to Plato's theory, in my opinion, just because something's immortal doesn't mean it has learned everything. I believe the 'soul' is immortal but it only knew of the experience called 'Life' prior, not anything contained within, therefore everything is a learning experience for our 'soul' rather than recollection.

"If people don't want you to question something, that probably means you should question it." - Michel Templet

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