What would Plato Tweet?

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With cerebral momentum from yesterday’s post on why philosophy won’t go away, let’s move on to another question raised by the same author, Rebecca Goldstein: what would Plato Tweet?

Goldstein likens the modern social media attention-seeking frenzy to the ancient Greek striving for kleos, which, as students will remember from CC101, is somewhat equivalent to “glory”. Goldstein does well to flesh out the definition:

The word comes from the old Homeric word for “I hear,” and it meant a kind of auditory renown. Vulgarly speaking, it was fame. But it also could mean the glorious deed that merited the fame, as well as the poem that sang of the deed and so produced the fame. The medium, the message, and the impact: all merged into one shining concept.

The argument moves forward with interesting analyses of how the ancients strove to matter in the world, and Goldstein leads us to the following conclusion:

It’s stunning that our culture has, with the dwindling of theism, returned to the answer to the problem of mattering that Socrates and Plato judged woefully inadequate. Perhaps their opposition is even more valid today. How satisfying, in the end, is a culture of social-media obsession? The multireplication so readily available is as short-lived and insubstantial as the many instances of our lives they replicate. If the inadequacies of kleos were what initially precipitated the emergence of philosophy, then maybe it’s time for philosophy to take on Klout. It has the resources. It’s far more developed now than in the day when Socrates wandered the agora trying to prick holes in people’s kleos-inflated attitudes. It can start by demonstrating, just as clearly and forcefully as it knows how, that we all matter.

Mattering — none of us more than the other — is our birthright, and we should all be treated accordingly, granted the resources that allow for our flourishing. Appreciating this ethical truth might help calm the frenzy surrounding our own personal mattering, allowing us to direct more energy toward cultivating justice and wisdom. In fact, fully appreciating this ethical truth, in all its implications for both thought and deed, would itself constitute a significant step toward the cultivation of justice and wisdom.

Do you matter? Does it matter whether you matter?
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