Existential Stoic Podcast, dobetterwithdan, self help, Motivation, Quick Fix, how to, learn, growth
with Danny & Randy

There are over 7 billion people in the world. Each person is a potential source of information, knowledge, even wisdom.

In this Quick Fix, Danny and Randy discuss how to learn from others. Start using the abundant resource around you!

The Existential Stoic Quick Fix 158 – How to Learn from Others – Available wherever you get your podcasts!

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Want to discover more? Please check out my related articles: Discovering Small Delights, Our Relationship to Suffering, Comparisons & Mistakes We Make, Defining a Life Project, Meditation & Balance, The Only Proof of Strength, What is Virtue?, A Formula for Happiness, and The Authentic Life.

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dobetterwithdan, Philosophy, Nietzsche, Truth, Knowledge

“There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival ‘knowing’; the more affects we are able to put into words about a thing, the more eyes, various eyes we are able to use for the same thing, the more complete will be our ‘concept’ of the thing, our ‘objectivity’.”

Nietzsche

A Matter of Perspective

The first time I came across the above quote by Nietzsche, I thought, “Yes, that is totally accurate!” I was in college and I hadn’t always thought that way.

When we are young, things seem relatively clear…we are still learning how the world works and what it is comprised of. There are authority figures in our lives, and for the most part things are usually relatively cut and dry. There are right things and wrong things, there are facts and there are lies; in short, there is the way things are and then there is make-believe, pretend, pretense.

Early on in our education, the focus is on learning facts, information, and the basic tools needed to think. We learn how to identify things in the world, how to construct a sentence, the favored historical narrative, and we learn how science explains natural phenomena.

Our education at the early stage is focused predominately on the regurgitation of information. We are given information and tested on the extent to which we can recall it. Perhaps this gives us a foundation for later…I guess it works.

What’s important is that for most of our lives we don’t really question the information provided, we don’t question whether it’s accurate. The teacher knows, your parents know, so and so knows…we trust these individuals to provide us with accurate, truthful accounts.

What I’ve Learned from Philosophy

Our perspective, our narrative, is often just as flawed as the next person’s.

When I began my journey into the study of philosophy, I was struck by the diverse and varied accounts, by the different arguments, and by the kinds of difficult questions philosophers ask.

Philosophers, I learned quickly, do not agree. They pursue truth, knowledge, wisdom, and they do so through argumentation. I found that philosophy was full of different perspectives on truth, full of different perspectives regarding how the world works and how values apply.

When Nietzsche claimed that there “is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival ‘knowing,’” he was pointing out that the way we see the world, the way we interpret things, our knowledge, depends upon our values and tacit beliefs. What we know, our experience, is shaped by our perspective, our standpoint.

Nietzsche realized that knowledge requires a perspective or point of view. You cannot have truth without first choosing a standpoint.

This is most evident when considering evaluative concepts. When we say things like “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or when we recognize a distinction between the morality of one culture and the morality of another, we are affirming the perspectival nature of truth, of seeing.

For Nietzsche, there is no objective truth to be discovered, but only what is true given a certain perspective or way of looking at things. When we realize this, we become more aware of the role of tacit beliefs, biases, convictions, and values in shaping the world we come to accept as given. It makes us more accepting of different narratives, different perspectives, because we have an easier time recognizing that no one perspective has it perfectly right.

“the more eyes, various eyes we are able to use for the same thing, the more complete will be our ‘concept’ of the thing, our ‘objectivity’.”

Nietzsche

In Plato’s dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates makes the point that the gods only argue and disagree when it comes to evaluative notions like beauty, justice, and the good.

Socrates’ point is that we don’t need to argue about whether a room is ten feet long or whether an object does or does not weigh fifty pounds, we can simply measure the room or weigh the object—problem solved.

We do argue about what is right, about beauty, about whether things are fair or just, because we lack a clear way to determine what counts as an example of the right, the beautiful, the just.

The way we explain the world, the way we see, is greatly influenced by our values and background beliefs—our perspective.

(See my related article, Accepting Death as a Part of Life)

When Nietzsche says, “the more eyes, various eyes we are able to use for the same thing, the more complete will be our ‘concept’ of the thing, our ‘objectivity’,” he’s suggesting that when it comes to humankind, the more perspectives we understand, the more ways in which we are able to see something, the more we will understand what that thing is and its role in human life, in the human world.

What I’ve learned from philosophy, then, is that we need to be more open to other people’s perspectives. We need to have an interest in learning, in seeing things differently, and in recognizing that our standpoint is not the only standpoint.

In short, we need to recognize that we do not have a special vantage point on truth. Our perspective, our narrative, is often just as flawed as the next person’s.

We do not have a special vantage point on truth.

Thanks for reading!

Please subscribe, like, and share.

Want to discover more? Please check out my related articles and posts: Creating Opportunities, The Only Proof of Strength, Developing a Positive Mindset – Discovering Small Delights, How to Develop Patience, The Stoic’s Way, So Many Possibilities, How to Face Your Fears – 6 Simple Steps to Realize Your Goals, The Importance of Exploration and Experimentation, What is Strength of Will? – Nietzsche, Honesty, and Authenticity, Epicurus on Pleasure and Desire, and Philosophy Teaches Us.

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dobetterwithdan, philosophy, Socrates, Plato, Wisdom

“I know that I know nothing.”

Socrates

Plato begins his dialogue, Meno, abruptly. Meno poses the following question to Socrates right at the outset: “Can you tell me, Socrates, can virtue be taught?” Meno believes he understands virtue and what it entails. He admits as much to Socrates: “I have made many speeches about virtue before large audiences on a thousand occasions, very good speeches I thought.”

After a relatively short debate with Socrates, however, Meno begins to doubt his own knowledge. He doubts whether he actually knows what he thought he knew.

“Socrates, before I even met you I used to hear that you are always in a state of perplexity and that you bring others to the same state, and now I think you are bewitching and beguiling me…so that I am quite perplexed…now I cannot even say what [virtue] is.”

Plato

In Meno, like so many of Plato’s early dialogues, Socrates is able to demonstrate to someone that they don’t possess the knowledge they thought they possessed.

(See my related article, Belief as a Noble Risk)

Plato reminds us that all learning, all growth begins when we admit that we don’t know everything. 

dobetterwithdan, philosophy, perplexity, curiosity, Socrates

Socrates readily admits his own ignorance in Plato’s dialogues. I’ve always found this interesting and appealing. Socrates is not some divine authority with all the answers; rather, he is portrayed, as he is—a man who is curious, who wants to know the truth and who has committed himself to the search, but who by no means knows everything. (See my related article, The Importance of Exploration and Experimentation, here.)

If Socrates did know everything, what would be the point of pursuing truth, of engaging in all the interesting debates he gets himself involved in? He admits to Meno that he doesn’t know what virtue is and hasn’t met anyone who does. (Check out my article, What is Virtue?, here.)

“Not only [do I not know what virtue is], my friend, but also that, as I believe, I have never yet met anyone else who did know.”

Plato

All learning, all growth begins when we admit that we don’t know everything.

We take for granted that the world is a certain way, or that we understand how things are, and yet when we are pushed to give a clear account we fail to explain what we claim to know. Why do we so often refuse to admit that we don’t know something or that what we know is perhaps not the whole story?

Plato’s dialogues demonstrate the importance of admitting what we don’t know. They demonstrate the role curiosity and perplexity play in fostering a desire to know, to understand, and to explore the world around us. Learning, growth—really any sort of advancement or development—requires being open to new possibilities, new ideas, and a willingness to explore the world around you.

(To learn more, see my related article, Are Hobbies Important?, here.)

Our world expands when we admit we don’t know something. Conviction creates a narrow world, one where only one interpretation is permitted.

The road to truth is paved in trial and error, in experimentation, and requires an open mind to navigate it effectively. We should all learn to be a little less certain, to cultivate the wonder and curiosity that expands our world, and to rediscover the love of knowledge and learning that permits self-growth and development.

We should learn to get comfortable in a state of perplexity.

Thanks for reading!

Please like and share this article.

What to learn more? Check out these related articles and posts: Philosophy Teaches Us, The Cave, What we can Learn Living Underground, How to Develop Patience, the Stoic’s Way, The Importance of Exploration and Experimentation, Creating Clear Goals, Developing a Positive Mindset – Discovering Small Delights, and How to Change Your Thinking and Change Yourself.

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Philosophy, dobetterwithdan, Plato, Socrates, Truth

“And if someone compelled him to look at the light itself, wouldn’t his eyes hurt, and wouldn’t he turn around and flee towards the things he’s able to see, believing that they’re really clearer than the ones he’s being shown?”

– Plato

Plato introduces the Allegory of the Cave in his work Republic to explore the effect of education on the individual. He describes a hypothetical where a group of people spend the entirety of their lives as prisoners in a cave.

(See my related article, Belief as a Noble Risk)

The prisoners are restrained such that they are able to see only the wall in front of them. The cave itself is lit only by a single fire, which is used to project shadows on the wall visible to the prisoners. The shadows comprise the prisoners’ reality—it is all they know.

“Then the prisoners would in every way believe that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of those artifacts.”

– Plato

The prisoners live in a dimly lit world. The shadows that are their reality do not provide accurate representations of objects in the real world. Though they can communicate with one another and talk about what appears before them, their reality is far from true. Nevertheless, this shadow-world is the only world they know, it is the world they are familiar with—it is the world they have come to accept as given.

If a prisoner were suddenly freed, he would therefore have difficulties making sense of the things he saw. Confused, he would be tempted to return to the familiar.

Plato uses the Allegory of the Cave to explain how a philosopher is akin to a prisoner who has been freed and who has come to understand the truth of the cave. He realizes the reality he accepted as given was not reality at all.

We all start out like prisoners in the cave. We are taught about the world, we grow up believing certain narratives, and we take these for granted because they are familiar. Indeed, challenging the dominant views of society is difficult because those around us will likely accept the shadows as truth. For the individual who pursues learning, knowledge, and self-realization, the social world presents obstacles that are difficult to overcome.

What we learn from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Plato’s allegory of the cave teaches us that if we want to pursue knowledge and self-realization, we need to be strong, we need to cultivate an open mind, and we need to challenge the views and beliefs we accept as given. It is important to explore the ideas and explanations we have adopted to determine which, if any, explain only a world of shadows rather than the real world.

We accept the world we are familiar with, and many of us never try to move beyond this. Plato’s allegory teaches us that we should, however, because failing to seek the truth means accepting a world of shadows, a dimly lit world where one lives by ideas one can’t even be sure offer an accurate account of reality.

“Slowly, his eyes adjust to the light of the sun.”

– Plato

Is Plato right?

Thanks for reading. Please subscribe, like, and share!

Please check out these related articles and posts: Curiosity, Perplexity, and the Wisdom of Socrates, What is Virtue? – Character Development and the Virtuous Life, What is Friendship? – Aristotle and Perfect Friendship, The Human Condition – Kafka and Man’s Search for Meaning, Note to Self, On Luck, and Philosophy Teaches Us.

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