Alfred North Whitehead, a famous thinker, once said, “All of western thought is a footnote to Plato.” But imagine that western thought is a person. How would he or she feel? Behave? How would you feel if someone listened to what you had to say and said that you were boring? Or unimportant? Or said you were nothing more than an imitation of Bart Simpson? Only a comic character?
In Spanking Plato, a satirical, funny, and irreverent story that some have called the next Monty Python, I have personified Western Thought—herein known as Wes or Wesley Thought—as someone who is confused and angry because everybody thinks he is nothing more than a copy, a cheap imitation of Plato. After all, as he says, he was around long before and after Plato.
He also is angry because many other famous people like Newton and Galileo have put words in his mouth. As a result, he is confused about who he is and suffers an identity crisis. He seeks the help of a therapist.
During these sessions, Wes complains at length and loudly about such people as Socrates among many others, whom he views as a doddering old man continually annoying people with questions that set them up to look ignorant.
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Think about how you would feel if someone put words in your mouth; that is they run all over the place misquoting you and it seems to you that their purpose is to make a fool of you.
Wesley Thought meets Plato and he is not happy. He feels he is a victim of unfair and unjust treatment. When he tells his Therapist about how he confronted Plato, she is not happy. He not only complains about Plato, but he also finds that Aristotle is just as annoying but in a different way.
In Part 2, Wesley Thought explores the concept of Justice. What is fair play? What is injustice? Has someone ever treated you unjustly? How did you handle it?
Learner’s Guide: Part 2: Plato and Aristotle
Critical Thinking questions:
1. According to Glaucon, it is true that it is better to appear just while being unjust? This is the best of all worlds. The worst of all worlds would be to be just and appear unjust. Is this true? Is honesty the best policy because it gets us what we want? If it didn’t would it be the worst of all worlds? If a politician or corporation is just only because the law requires it or because it looks good, is that justice?
2. Is there such a thing as justice in and of itself? If we know we can’t get caught, why do or don’t we cheat in school, in sports, on tests and on our taxes? Or maybe we do. Some might say that we follow the rules because there is always a chance of being caught. If you had a ring of Gyges and you knew you couldn’t be caught, would you ever do the right thing? Especially if doing right made you appear wrong?
3. How do you respond to Plato’s theory of government? Is it realistic? What are its flaws? What are its good points? Describe the pros and cons of Plato’s government.
4. Alternatively, discuss Plato’s views of democracy. Is his viewpoint applicable to American democracy today? Why or why not?
5. Does Plato believe knowledge can be obtained by the senses? If not, how is knowledge obtained?
6. Does Aristotle believe knowledge can be obtained by the senses?
7. Wesley Thought believes that Aristotle’s influence impacts teaching today. How does he explain that? What is your experience?
8. What does Thought mean when he claims that everyone is either an Aristotelian or a Platonist? Which are you?