The Difference Between Light & Knowledge

Someday, in the distant future, our grand-children’ s grand-children will develop a new equivalent of our classrooms. They will spend many hours in front of boxes with fires glowing within. May they have the wisdom to know the difference between light and knowledge.

– Plato

My mentor as a chef used to tell me; “Intelligence is knowing that the tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not to put it in the fruit salad.” And that saying stayed with me since then. Knowledge is only a small part of education. What you do with it is all.

Plato used to say that we never learn, we are just in a state of rememberance. “The Heracliteans maintained that everything in the world of space and time was continually flowing, as they put it. Change never ceased to operate for a moment and nothing was ever the same for two instants together. The consequence of this doctrine being that there could be no knowledge of this world, since one cannot be said to have knowledge of something which is different at this moment from what it was a moment ago. (…)”

That theory of recollection is actually Plato’s conception of the soul being immortal, therefore, having access to all knowledge; past, present, and future.

In his winged car allegory, there’s a driver, a chariot with wings and two horses. The driver controls and directs the two horses. The white horse is noble, obedient and strong, the irascible part, rational passions, the part tied to justice. The other black horse is disobedient and bad, the concupiscible part that pursues the irrational pleasures and desires that are difficult to control. These characters are the representation of the parts of the soul. The driver is the ‘reason’ which directs and governs the horses harmoniously.

The only rule was that, if one of the horses was revealed and the driver lost control, the soul would be expelled to the sensible world (imperfect world) where the body which is the “prison” captures the soul and would forget all the knowledge it possessed of the world of ideas.

The solution to reach freedom according to Plato is to reach the maximum knowledge, if this is not achieved the soul will continue rotating through different bodies until finally returning to the world of ideas.

That is why the human being, in spite of having buried knowledge, takes charge of bringing it to light, remembering the ‘knowledge’ by copies of the world of ideas, called by Plato Anamnesis which is memory or reminiscence.

Laurence BL

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