Thursday, September 9, 2010

Conversations in my head between Plato & Freud

Sigmund Freud
It's great to be a student in 2010. When I was a freshman in 1989, I could sit and doodle during a lecture. At business school in 1998, I got to sit in the only amphi at the time with in-seat LAN outlets. This allowed me to play online chess with a fellow bored classmate across the amphi. Today, I was Skyping with MH in New York. I had her on mute on my end, but on her end, she could hear the lecture. At one point, I scanned the lecture hall with my laptop camera.

"Next time, sit in the first row so I get to see the faces of your classmates," she told me.

Today's Personality lecture was on Sigmund Freud -- repression, suppression, transference, free association, dreams, unconscious, Freudian slips etc.  When Dr Blowers was talking about hypnosis, MH and I chatted about NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming). She recounted how an NLP practitioner at a yoga retreat had made her hold a flower, arm out-stretched, for an hour. Then I mentioned how my new Mommy friends had raved about self-hypnosis during the birthing process, and wondered if I could apply that skill to help me run an upcoming half marathon, for which I have not trained. The most interesting little factoid from the day's lecture had little to do with psychology -- apparently, eels are hermaphrodites.

But the thought of the day was sparked by this line in one of the concluding lecture slides: "fantasy (psyche's reality) is important in shaping adult personality". This made me think about yesterday's class on Plato and skepticism.

Plato asked: What do we really know about our reality that is truly real? How do we know it's real?
Freud asked: What do we know about our reality that we don't really want to know? How can we know it?

It occurred to me that Plato and Freud could have an interesting conversation. After all, the Parable of the Cave can be used to describe our relationship with our unconscious. Imagine our conscious being shadows projected by our unconscious forms.

We spend a lot of time talking about and shoring up what we know or think we know. And then we tend to ignore the rest. As the student from yesterday's class pointed out, if we have no way of knowing the truth, why not just accept what we know as all there is to know?

Why poke and prod and look for an unconscious/higher reality/truth that is not/cannot be comprehended by our conscious?

All this makes me think that the most interesting question is: What don't we know? And do we really not know it? Or does our conscious mind suppress our knowledge?
  • We don't know what happens to us when we die.
  • We don't know if there is a God that made this universe. Although Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow think they know: A Grand Design
  • We don't know what we're really capable or, let alone other people.
  • We don't know the end consequences of most of our actions.
  • We don't know how long we will live.
 Ultimately, we don't know what we don't know...until we know it...

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