Thinking and Sharing

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right). Aristotle’s hand is downward and open. Preferring the particulars, studied through observation and experience. Plato points upwards. Preferring absolutes.

Pg 169 – They Thought They Were Free, Quote is from a Philologist colleague of Mayer
“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.”

If you can’t change people’s minds, or prove to them that “this must lead to this”, what do you do?  If the only people who understand you are people who think like you do, maybe we must address the way people think before ‘what’ they think about?  How does one go about that?  All people are not systematic thinkers, some are creative artists, some are some like big ideas, others small details.  Some people prefer to debate particulars while others absolutes.  Take Plato and Aristotle for example, two very different thinkers.   So must a good teacher learn to analyze his beliefs from all corners?

If instead focus is spent on only our method of thinking, our thoughts and conclusions we may become isolated as the author’s colleague remarks:

Pg 170 – They Thought They Were Free, Quote is from a Philologist colleague of Mayer
“Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things.”

As far as I am aware, I am more like Plato in that I prefer absolute principles, and stem my beliefs and actions from that.  What about you?  Do you know your preferred thinking method?  Feel free to share in the comments.

This post is a continuation of a long series of commentary on quotes pulled from They Thought They Were Free, the Germans 1933-45 by Milton Mayer.  The book itself is home to a lot of revelations to the nature of people and I do recommend reading it.  For additional reading please see the short review of the book itself and a list of other commentary like this post.


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