Below is the first discussion and my first response for the Management 365 – Business and Its Environment class I’m currently taking:
After you have read the excerpt from Plato think about the following: What point is Plato trying to make? What do the shadows and the objects represent? What does Truth look like for Plato? What does the sun represent? What do you think of Plato’s idea that the world that we see and experience physically is less “real” than the intellectual world?
I first read about Plato’s cave way back in my freshman year at USC in my Ancient Greek Culture & Society Philosophy class. At the time the Matrix was still relatively new and the whole class was quite impressed that the main ideas covered in that movie were discussed by Plato millennia before. Plato’s point in his story is to not just assume that the world we see, hear, smell, touch, and sense every day is all that there is to reality. In essence, Plato is asking the question what is reality and how do you know you are in it.
Just like in the Matrix, that person you see walking in front of you may not be a person at all. They may just be a shadow being cast on a cave, a computer program, or a very detailed animation that a much higher being is drawing. Interestingly enough, modern physics informs us that the material objects we see and touch everyday and take for granted as being concrete (in a philosophical sense, not actually made out of concrete) are most likely not the true representation. In other words, the universe doesn’t actually look the way all of us see it, but rather our minds project these properties onto the world. That tree is not actually green, but rather has characteristics and physical properties, which cause the light reflected by it into our eyes to be interpreted as green.
The tree is also not a tree but rather a grouping of very tiny particles that we cannot even see but yet when grouped together our mind interprets as being a tree from prior experience and collaboration with other humans. Plato was spot on by thinking that the physical world is not as “real” as the intellectual world. Of course, there’s no way of knowing what is really the truth, but chances are 1+1 will equal 2 almost always, but a green tree may in fact not be a tree at all. Again, take the case of the Matrix, where computer code within the Matrix helps you code outside of the Matrix, but the material world within the Matrix turns out to be nothing more than a bunch of 1s and 0s. Take another example, within the Matrix and outside of the Matrix, the American Civil War occurred, so a historian with a lot of knowledge about the Civil War will be equally knowledgeable about the Civil War within and outside the Matrix. On the other hand, someone who knows how to maneuver around Boston within the Matrix will be absolutely lost outside the Matrix in Boston.
The shadows and objects represent the observable world. They very well are “real” but that does not mean they are what they appear to be. Going back to the Matrix analogy, the world inside the Matrix is “real”, it is just that world is actually a massive computer simulation and is not planet earth as those inside the Matrix believe it to be. Likewise the shadows and objects are real, but they are not the entire world, which is what the prisoners believe. Their whole lives have revolved around these shadows and to them that is life. They have no idea that there is another world behind them and thus to them there is nothing wrong with their reality.
For us, the shadows and objects represent the world we can all admit we live in. Whether there is something beyond earth in this universe in these four dimensions (albeit there are many other dimensions that we simply do not perceive naturally) is not currently provable but certainly debatable. Plato’s prisoners may have even wondered is there anything beyond these shadows, but if any one of them suggested that these shadows are just the result of a giant orb of fire casting its light against people, just like them, walking around in a massive world behind them they would have been ostracized from the prisoner society. Just like if I was to tell everyone here that the world is merely a drawing of some super being in another dimension, everyone would think I’m crazy but who really knows? (Note, I don’t believe this…just making a point here…).
For Plato, and for Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, truth is something that illuminates the real world and shows us what the world looks like apart from our own perspective. One could make an argument that the sun in this story is like a god-like entity that reveals the true nature of the world to us, once we break out of our chains. One could similarly make the case that the sun represents other beings in our universe (aliens) who arrive at earth and show us our true place in the universe. In other words, the sun is basically a source of knowledge and true perspective or orientation; the sun represents a method of discovering truth.
Truth, to Plato, is knowledge. Two people might look at a picture and see two different objects or colors (especially if one is color-blind and one is not); however, the idea that murdering innocent people is wrong is less likely to be interpreted differently. The difference here is between material, or what we see, feel etc., and ideal, or what we think. A fact can be wrong but an idea cannot. For instance, we take is as fact that rotate around the sun, but what if future generations discover there’s a huge black hole right next to the sun which stopped sucking matter in but remains as a huge gravitational force we all rotate around. Our fact would be proven wrong. On the other hand, if I think Boston is the greatest city in the world (it is), then no matter how many facts you show me or different perspectives, I still can never be wrong. That is why it’s true Boston is the greatest city in the world (in my mind).
Maps: Mercator, Peters & “Upside-Down”
First, look at the Mercator map and then at the Peters’ and “upside down” maps. Consider the historical context of each map. Who (likely) created the maps? With what purposes in mind? How did these factors affect the way the different maps look? Respond.
The Mercator map attempted to display the world in its true physical form, as a sphere. The problem with the Mercator map is drawing a 3D object in 2D space. A good assumption here is that an individual named Mercator created this map. The purpose of this map was to create an accurate map that would aid sailors of that time period to better navigate the world. This map would aid sailors by showing how the earth expands outwards at the equator and shrinks at the poles, thus helping them better plan their trips. This purpose caused the map’s shape, as well as the lines running across the map (to show a visual representation of how the earth’s shape affects distance). This purpose is hence why the map is smaller at the poles and wider at the equator, to show it would take longer to go around the world by traveling through the equator rather than through one of the poles.
It’s likely an individual named Peter(s) created the Peters map. The purpose of this map was to show the true proportions of land masses in relation to each other. To accomplish this Peters gave each piece of area on earth an equal unit, and then mapped out the various land masses according to how much space they take up on the actual earth. I remember taking a class a long time ago (I think in high school), where the teacher told the class that the majority of maps are wrong, or at least are wrong in how big countries actually are. Peters must have seen many of the same types of maps and set out to make a map that accurately shows the size of land. It is quite amazing to see the fallacies many of us learn.
I think a good guess at who created the “upside-down” map is someone from the southern hemisphere. Either this “southerner” made the map this way because it seemed right from their perspective (just like it looks “upside-down” to me) or because they saw so many maps oriented the other way and wanted to present their perspective. Whoever made the map most likely made it to show that the world is not a 2D top down world, but rather can be viewed in many different ways, depending on your orientation.
3 New York Times Articles
- Economic View; Options Do Not Raise Performance, Study Finds By David Leonhardt
- What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? By Gary Taubes
- A Region’s Workers Go From Flush Time To Hard Times, Fast By David Firestone
What do these articles indicate about the nature of Truth? Respond.
An assumption, or a logical sequitur, does not necessarily create truth. With the first NYT article about saturated fat, I assumed the article would point out flaws in the common assumption that fat is bad but the real heart of the article, especially as it relates to our topics, is that we take for granted that a community of scientists will be correct, especially when the majority of them agree. From a logical perspective, one could rationally surmise that if I eat fat, it will add fat to my body, and thus it will make my body fat. That seems reasonable enough, right?
Another common assumption the NYT reports is incorrect, is that CEOs with stock options will run better performing companies since their pay is directly tied to the company’s performance. The true answer is not always what it seems and sometimes there isn’t even a true answer. Some companies perform better when their CEO is given stock options, the majority (as the NYT reports) do not. If Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, had an option that would grant him $1 trillion dollars if Apple sells one million iPods, wouldn’t that discourage you, and most consumers, from buying an iPod out of sheer disgust at the massive pay-out? I bet it would. Now, what if the circumstances were the same, but Steve promised to donate all of the $1 trillion dollars to charity, wouldn’t that encourage you to buy an iPod? Again, I bet it would. In both situations, there are options tied to the performance of the company but with two completely different results. The point here is not only that there is not as valid a cause and effect as one would assume, but also that the reality of the situation contains a plethora of other variables. Did oil companies make so much money last year because their chief executives were encouraged by stock options; or did those companies make so much money because of the high demand in the market?
I actually guessed “correctly” on the correlation of unemployment rate and the performance of a company. In my mind, a higher unemployment rate meant fewer costs and higher productivity per employee. It turns out I was “correct”. I suppose a common assumption is that low unemployment rate means there is a demand for employees because there is a demand for the product. Such a situation is still accurate, these two variables do not have as high a correlation as we would think however. The truth here is that factors such as these can be twisted into making it seem as though there is a correlation, when there is not.
De Tocqueville described both the advantages and the disadvantages of the democratic tendency in the U.S.A., as related to industry. What were they? Do you think that his analysis of the forces affecting democracy is still valid today (why or why not)?
Although De Tocqueville wrote this article over a century and a half ago, his analysis of the American democracy still holds to be valid today. One of the great advantages of a true democracy (which we are not, if we were Al Gore would be our president right now…odd that we promote democracy across the world without having an absolute democracy at home) is that everyone is treated the same and everyone has the same opportunity. Sure, the average rich person will have a better chance at getting into a top college than the average poor person, but that does not mean a poor person cannot get into the same schools and cannot perform better once at the school. Likewise, we all have the same opportunity at becoming wealthy. Of course, someone who can afford to devote their entire time to brainstorming entrepreneurial ideas will have more chances to create a working idea that enriches him, but someone who has to work forty hours a week just to live can still come up with one great idea and can still implement that idea into a functional model that enriches him.
We are today living in the aristocratic democracy De Tocqueville foresaw. Look at our presidential candidates. They are nearly all well-off and well-educated and live a “leisurely” lifestyle. Just look at our current president, Ivy League educated, son of a former president, and someone who has succeeded in life because of his luck at being born into the Bush family. We have so many middle class Americans in this country, so why don’t we see a middle-class president? Because the aristocratic people have access to century old networks and are wealthy enough to spam us with their ideals. Why doesn’t CNN give debate time to independent and third-party presidential candidates? Those are the people who truly need access to CNN’s viewership, yet the aristocratic, upper-echelon of American society will not allow for fair and equitable political playing fields.
I could realistically and conservatively name at least 100 people who I would trust to lead this country more than any of the candidates I’ve seen from the Republican and Democratic parties. It’s a shame these people have families and jobs to deal with and thus cannot afford to run for office. People with real problems deal with them, the rest run for political office.
What was Ehrenreich trying to accomplish in her travels through the U.S.A.(150 years after De Tocqueville)?
Ehrenreich wanted to live the life of a proletariat and find out the secrets these people must be holding to live on such a low wage. While pitching ideas for a book, Barbara brought up the topic of poverty and wondered aloud how people could live on such a low pittance. With the high cost of living a decent life, Barbara assumed that the millions of Americans working at or near minimum wage must know of some methods to stretch each and every dollar to unimaginable lengths for a middle-class writer.
Part of me also believes that Ehrenreich wanted to prove the critics of the critics of capitalism wrong. She references socialism and Karl Marx and a few other anti-capitalism thoughts and ideas multiple times. Even though she hasn’t stated as much yet, I believe in the back of her mind Barbara thought it can’t be that tough to live on a few dollars an hour. If it truly was that difficult, surely we wouldn’t have so many people who live at the bottom of the wage range. Or at least Barbara thought she might be able to find some methods of her own on how to survive at the bottom.
The main focus of her book, so far, is that our economic system is not only in-equal, but also extremely ironic and unfair. Many of the lowest paid workers have the toughest jobs and work the hardest. Barbara couldn’t even survive a day working as a housekeeper, yet my own mom toiled in that profession for several years. My mom did not have the luxury of giving up and looking for other jobs even though I could see that she was literally killing herself at work. The back problems of the housekeep Barbara met and the other health issues these people suffer are ironically caused by their jobs most of the time. To make matters even worse, their employers rarely even offer health insurance or at best make you jump through hoops to get it. Somewhere along the line, Ehrenreich figured out that these people at the bottom don’t have secrets, they just work as hard as they can just to make ends meet. What’s the big secret of getting by with a low paying job? Get another job to supplement your low income.