To Hell With Plato

To Hell With Plato



UPDATED:

To Leandra Piazzo — Wherever You Are

Seeking beauty’s noesis, slighting all imitation’s charming
Scorning sorely mimesis, waiting for ideation’s proving
Ending promptly willfulness, seeing her excellence’s crafting
Grinning sassy, pretentious rolling eyes: “Conversation’s boring!”
Laughing sexy, salacious staring, predation’s lips a curling
Biting wildly, ferocious raving, “Leandra — the lion roaring!”
Speaking haughty, luscious, “Piazzo — Italian so alluring!”
Working surely conscious, honing her gesticulation’s staging
Knowing beauty fictitious, halting not this attention’s leering
Showing silly playfulness, waving her salutation leaving
Smiling coyly, eyeful test, luring in the true Ion’s feigning
Thinking dumbly, mindless running for the strolling lion, calling,
“To hell with Plato!”

Vincent Triola · To Hell With Plato

Noesis v. Mimesis

Effort to perfectly describe the girl in this poem conflated with philosophy and impacted my writing. The ideal v. reality has a long history, most notably revealed in Plato’s writings. According to Plato, Noesis is the knowledge of perfect forms or the essence of a thing and, thus, the most sought knowledge. For instance, in this knowledge, a form of love, the perfect love that all other love mimics, exists and should be discovered through reason. We should avoid mimicry or Mimesis, such as art, music, poetry, and other imitations of life, because they remove us from the world of perfect forms — according to Plato.

The mind seemingly perfectly conjures all things, setting a trap that Plato himself became ensnared, and us today, which is the belief in a perfect idea or thing existing within or outside the mind. To believe a state of perfect reality overlooks the unknown variables and minutia ever impacting a thing’s state.

Perfection (or a perfect form of some thing) is an illusion only the mind can achieve by framing the conceptual world to make that thing perfect (since all possible variables causal to imperfection cannot be known). While you believe you have imagined perfect love, what you actually imagined is love imitating perfection via imperfect knowledge. To say you imagine perfect love means you accounted for every possible scenario and factor deterring that love from perfection, such as financial issues, health concerns, changes in mental health, errors in judgment, and many more.

You readily see the problem claiming you have imagined perfect love or with any claim of perfection in the vast possibilities.

Though this thought exercise seems a bit silly, underlying practicality clarifies the flaw of common wisdom or adages such as “aim for perfection” and “if you can imagine something, you can achieve it.” If you believe a perfect partner (true love) awaits you, you are applying unrealistic expectations to people. This delusion applies to any thing we see as an ideal imagined state, i.e., perfect spouse, perfect kids, perfect marriage, perfect job, etc.

The more we give ourselves to this delusion, the more disappointment we are likely to incur.

The trap of ideal states extends beyond desires and has consequences for our interactions with others due to faulty perceptions. If we say something like, “he’s a good man” or “she’s a good woman,” we have revealed our holding of an idealized version of a man or woman. These idealized states manifest in racism, misogyny, ethnocentric thinking, and many other deluded beliefs in a perfect state of being.

Isn’t that what white supremacists claim? That they are the superior race.

Perfection underpins much bad thought, such as when someone achieves success in an endeavor such as business and credits themselves, claiming, “I worked hard and believed in myself.” While working hard and self-efficacy go a long way, they can also be an idealized set of beliefs in personal attributes or ideas needed to achieve success, and when success occurs, self-serving bias reinforces this belief, overlooking other factors such as timing, market conditions, and even luck. Many, many rich people will tell you they achieved success because of their thinking, omitting they had help in the form of family or connections with other rich people.

I achieved success, so my thinking must have been spot on, correct?

The delusion depth solely depends on a person’s degree of belief in a perfect state, but clearly, these idealized versions have consequences because they bias us toward the reality other people live and, by extension, our dealings with them.

Understanding our propensity to think unrealistically provides tremendous benefit. If we understand the unattainability of perfection in all things, we make better decisions, like not chasing long shot deals or wagering our livelihoods on bad thinking such as believing effort or positive thinking alone achieves results. We see ideas realistically like politics, culture, and love. We see people not as states of our imagination or a fulfilment of desires but for what they are: real, flawed, individuals just like us.

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