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Dudley’s bookstore writers group – prompt concept

What if we said what we really thought?

Monday 10:10 – 10:55 AM

As a philosophical question, this is intriguing and only one major philosopher I know who ever discussed “What if we said what we really thought?” was Plato’s brother. In his discussions of public morality, Plato discussed at great length how people should behave, but when it came to how to enforce his thoughts he instantly got into sticky stuff and didn’t write much. Even physical behavior was difficult to define as good or bad, and rewarding worthy or punishable actions often became an even more confusing subject. He and his buddies spent lots of time and effort trying to write laws for a great society, and they were then living in a very flexible society and were quite free to explore to the limits of human ingenuity their options.

Should the laws of their society be wholly concerned with the public good, and suppress private needs and wants to the bare minimum, such as the Spartans were doing, or should they, the Athenians, emphasize the individual’s personal liberty and encourage everyone to be totally free in their verbal statements and physical actions too? Should everyone speak their mind even if it hurt other people, perhaps even hurt everyone, and should the same principle apply to physical actions so that every individual could do anything they felt like doing, with the only limit that it didn’t hurt other people or the whole society? How could these things be defined and how much hurt could be accepted, and how could that be stopped and recompensed? If everyone really said what they thought at every moment wouldn’t personal and public psychological injury become so horrible that society would break down, or would people soon become so comfortable with unpleasant things being said and done that they would learn to tolerate and prefer that form of society?

Plato‘s brother, Glaucon, was of the opinion that every person should be absolutely transparent and always express precisely how they felt, how they thought, and how they behaved. He asserted that if everyone clearly saw what other people’s needs were that they would treat them fairly. People are naturally empathetic to other people’s needs, and if they saw those needs clearly they would do what was necessary to help those people. In this ideal society, it would be easy to do unto these others what they needed to be done to them. But for this to work, it was necessary for people to be completely visible in their every detail, but no one wanted everyone seeing their innermost thoughts because, being exposed in that way, others might see how insignificant they were and greedy too. Everyone wanted to be thought of as better than they were. Also, it is obvious that others would laugh at everyone else’s warts, wrinkles, and silly thoughts, so they all agreed it was easier to ignore other people’s inmost thoughts and suppress total exposure.

One of their buddies disagreed. Socrates was his name, and he was famous and infamous for saying what he thought, and for prying into and exposing other people’s inmost thoughts too and too clearly. Many people appreciated his deep questioning and valued him highly, but there were others who hated his perspicacious probes, and they legally murdered him.

Once dead everyone could start praising Socrates again and saying what a fine fellow he was, and how everyone loved him. But in fact people who were speaking their truth without any constraints, and were attempting to get others to become absolutely transparent too, were hated and soon killed.

There is a long tradition among humans of killing those people who speak and act out their thoughts too clearly.