Don’t Ask Dr. Phil. Ask Socrates! (Take Two)

Socrates: My dearest Agnes! What has brought you here again? Having feelings of despair? (giggles)
Agnes: Actually….
Socrates: Oh my Lord, we’re in luck!
Agnes: I do so wish you would not delight so strongly over my despair, Socrates!
Socrates: Come child, you know it’s your spirit that delights me, not your despair as such.
Agnes: I think I …eeer….need further counsel, Socrates.
Socrates: Counsel? Surely I have not created the falsity in you that I have done more than occasioned in you an understanding of yourself?
Agnes: Honestly?
Socrates: I bid you to be earnest, if not entirely truthful with me, dear girl.
Agnes: You seem to have a way of talking to me that fills my head with ideas that …well…they weren’t there before!
socratesSocrates: Is your mind so devoid of content that like a mug I should pour fresh coffee to its brim? Are you but a receptacle that I should simply make my deposits at will?
Agnes: What has coffee to do with anything, Socrates?
Socrates: Agnes! Agnes! Where does your mind wander?
Agnes: Nowhere…I mean here!!! My mind is here, focused, trying to make sense of your elusive comments!
Socrates: Nothing elusive at all. I was only asking you to place greater care in your manner of speech, for after all, our words fashion our thoughts which in turn fashion our world.
Agnes: Huh?
Socrates: Focus now, Agnes. When you say your mind becomes filled with ideas not previously there, do you mean that your mind was previously empty? After all, a mug already filled can take no more without spillage.
Agnes: That’s nonsense!
Socrates: I apologize for my daftness, but do bear with me for a little while longer.
Agnes: Of course, Socrates. All I meant to say was that no one could literally say such a thing. I mean since saying it…anything at all …would negate its truth!
Socrates: Quite right! So when you say that I put ideas in your head that weren’t there before, you just mean that new deposits are being made as when one makes a cash deposit at a bank?
Agnes: Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
Socrates: Is this why people say that one grows in wisdom with age?
Agnes: I believe that’s true even though I don’t understand your meaning.
Socrates: Just this: If a bank account accrues greater wealth with each new deposit, then the mind too must accumulate great riches with each passing ex-change.
Agnes: That does make sense, but…
Socrates: But?
Agnes: Well, it occurs to me that not everyone becomes richer with the passage of time!
Socrates: My mind too wanders to some of my most infamous associates –You do recall the Thirty Tyrants?
Agnes: Don’t blame yourself Socrates, these men alone must bear the burden of their ill repute and injustices.
Socrates: And yet Agnes you describe our time together as one where I – your counselor (cringing now) – deposit ideas not previously there! (eyebrows raised)
Agnes: Yes, but my mind …I…am not just a reservoir or worse a dumpster!
Socrates: Paulo Freire has made a similar point we might cash in on.
Agnes: (smiles)
Socrates: “Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is a spectator, not re-creator. In this view the person is not a conscious being; he or she is rather the possessor of a consciousness: an empty “mind” passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside” (The Banking Concept, 247).
Agnes: This is way past my philosopher’s pay grade, but I do see how you might have previously been offended at my remark.
Socrates: Offended? Remark?
Agnes: Yes. When previously I suggested that I am in need of further counsel…
Socrates: The offense, if indeed there was one, was more for want of clarity. Even in death I am called upon to amend this false image of myself as some kind of pedagogue who connivingly disavowed knowledge only to entice the inexperienced neophyte and immobilize him!
Agnes: Who bears false witness to these horrific accusations, Socrates!?
Socrates: My dearest Agnes, there is a stream of such informal indictments that have followed me for all time. But let’s not dwell on this. Instead, consider the point of the offense.
Agnes: Right you are! I now understand both that the mind is not a receptacle passively accruing wealth in the way of ideas deposited by others. The banking concept, as I understand it, adopts a false understanding of things.
Socrates: How so?
Agnes: For starters it takes the mind to be passive. Actually, you’ve made the point to me often: “Focus, Agnes! Where does your mind wander, Agnes?! More precision with your choice of words, Agnes!”
Socrates: I think you’re onto something here! Could you explain further?
Agnes: When last we conversed, I recall coming to realize that what I had originally identified as a problem, in fact, was quite triumphant.
Socrates: Now I’m lost.
Agnes: I came feeling depressed, and quite anxious in this knowledge. Unhappiness was in my mind a bad thing. Yet, upon further consideration I came to realize that feelings of unhappiness, whilst unpleasant, aren’t also (necessarily) bad.
Socrates: How so?
Agnes: Unhappiness itself is not bad; rather, events in one’s life are bad.
Socrates: And so that’s a good thing?
Agnes: (winking) Not a good thing, Socrates! It is a blessing to possess the capability to feel – whether happiness or unhappiness. It is a state or stance of indifference to ourselves in the world that is bad!
Socrates: Indeed. So what changed your mind?
Agnes: I was mistaken earlier to suggest that you actually planted ideas in my mind, akin to making a cash deposit. No, no. I see that now.
Socrates: So? Don’t belabor the point, dear girl!!
Agnes: I had made a false association – a number of these. I associated goodness with pleasure, so that in turn, I presumed my depression to be a bad thing.
Socrates: Could we put it this way: anything unpleasant is bad; feeling depressed is unpleasant; hence it is bad.
Agnes: Indeed. So that I also believed the converse was true.
Socrates: “Anything pleasant is good; feelings of happiness is pleasurable; hence, happiness is good.
Agnes: This is in part why I both envied my “happiest” friends and was left in a self-effacing state of dread.
Socrates: Your mind seemed most engaged throughout our conversation, Agnes.
Agnes: Notice how this Freire fragment also relates back to our previous conversation with regards to indifference. For “Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is a spectator, not re-creator”. A spectator would be someone who is detached, or disengaged. An inanimate being that records, passive like, the goings on in the world as if the mind provides no platform from which the world is made meaningful, and we – as the Subjects of our life experiences – are ontologically – uninvested.
Socrates: This leaves one to ponder how to understand the idea of truth and honesty.
Agnes: The thought has been nagging at me, Socrates. I mean if we are not just inanimate beings that are detached from the world; but are, in fact, dynamic, reflective Subjects whose engagement in the world is meaningfully negotiated through our self-conscious understanding of ourselves as negotiators of meaning, the truth is not static but the outpouring of deliberation.
Socrates: Let us agree to begin our next conversation with this.

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