In my post yesterday (“Human Nature…21st Century”) I said I’d look for more of Alain de Botton on-line. This post, “Socrates on Sheeple,” is the result. Botton’s 25 minute video on Socrates is a resource for the 21st Century.
Alain de Botton interviews a British corporate person who risked career and relationships by speaking up, raising questions – in other words, whistle-blower mentality.
Botton also goes to Athens. He explores human behavior of following dominant, popular, “from the leader” conclusions and ideas, (the opposite of whistle-blower). We humans have long known this behavior in ourselves; we describe it “sheep-like”.
His Athens trip, of course, centers on Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
The video is an interesting, entertaining, gently put challenge for us to practice independent thinking based on review of Socrates: his lifestyle, questions and teachings.
Socrates asked questions to nudge everyone – whether living high-profile or ordinary lives – to think. He gives 5 thinking steps (Botton describes in the video) by which we can discover what we believe and why.
The goal of Socrates’ 5-question system was to help people discover that once we explore questions otherwise thought “too complicated”, we can speak point-of-view with confidence.
One of the first beliefs we need to change, is our incorrect belief that we are not philosophers! Each of us is born hard-wired to be “a thinker”.
“Socrates asked us to overcome our laziness and timidity. He believed amount of formal schooling was not important. Socrates would not have been pleased with our ‘focus group’ system of making decisions. He also reminded us: the majority can be wrong.” (paraphrased from video)
For our best future, we need as many minds as possible to turn to important, essential, questions. Minds that want to practice systematic, critical, thinking. Independent minds.
We know, of course, the unfortunate outcome for Socrates!
Lucky for us, we can watch the video. We don’t need to go among strangers, as Socrates did, asking questions that might annoy or alarm.
I’ve also summarized Socrates 5 steps as given by de Botton on this critical thinking page. We can practice in our private thoughts, we can practice with friends. With practice, we may surprise ourselves with our beliefs, and certainly we can gain confidence.
Can you imagine a world in which nearly everyone is interested, curious, and confident to examine truth and ideas? A world in which we respect this practice in one another?
I can! It’s the world I want everyone to live in, to enjoy!
My Best! –MaggieAnn
(As a farmer, I have to add: if you’ve never watched a flock of real sheep on the move, many leaping over invisible (to human vision) obstacles, following one who makes the first leap, you’ve missed a charming moment! It’s hard not to like sheep!)