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?
In Spanking Plato, a satirical, funny, and irreverent story that some have called the next Monty Python, I have personified Western Thought—also 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 Adam Smith, 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.
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How would you like to work an average of three hours a day for the rest of your life? In set 6, we will learn that that a three-hour workday was the norm until something happened 400-500 years ago. Since that time, many of us feel trapped at work that is long, tedious and dreary. These extra hours are often unpaid and we sacrifice our family life and the quality of our life.
We will also explore the ideas of Adam Smith and the strange vacation (Interlude) of Wesley Thought in Atlantic City. Wesley almost ends up on an Atlantic City post office bulletin board. How does Wesley Thought unintentionally create disaster for several innocent vacationers while defending himself?
Learner’s Guide: Adam Smith & Interlude Days 1-3
Critical Thinking questions:
1. Wesley Thought claims that Adam Smith has been misinterpreted especially over the last few years. What is the misinterpretation that Thought is alluding to? What were Thought’s main points? How does he justify this idea? Do you agree?
2. Compare and contrast Smith’s ideas about the free market with today’s ideas about the free market. How are they alike? Different? Draw a chart or a picture to show this contrast.
3. Using the information in the readings and the series, how would you create or design a capitalistic society today. (Note: this may be a group project.)
4. Noam Chomsky in his book, Class Warfare, says that Smith would despise today’s capitalism. That nobody reads the part where he says that the division of labor will destroy human beings and make them into ignorant stupid people and that government is going to have to take some action to prevent the division of labor from continuing to its limits. Analyze this statement. Is it accurate? How do you react to this statement? Do you agree? Why or why not?
5. Can you provide an alternative to capitalism? Would you keep this system or change it? Why or why not? What information would you use to support your views?
6. Can you list the characters in the three days of the interlude? Who are they and what are their biases? How did they react to Thought’s ideas? Draw a sketch of Wesley Thought as he might have appeared on an Atlantic City wanted poster.
7. Write an essay summarizing Thought’s ideas of the effects of the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution and the rise of capitalism on twentieth-century thought.
8. What particular elements of Thought’s ideas would you want to implement? Throw out? Why?
9. Using your ideas, compare and contrast the features of how you think society should be organized with what you see is reality today.
10. Choose one of the ideas expressed on the beach that you would like to implement i.e. the three-hour workday. What would a three-hour school day be like? Is it practical? How would you change the system to create such a practice?
11. What is your opinion of Thought’s ideas? Of the current system?