February 10, 2005

Footnotes to Plato

After reading "Ion", an excerpt from "Phaedrus" and an article concerning "Phaedrus", I must say that I understand Socrates little better than when I had in philosophy class, but understand to a better degree the range of topics that he discusses with his sorry group of saps that he trounces upon.

I admire his method. Asking questions. Asking the opponent to concede something, anything in argument, and later using the content of their answers against them. I studied this method in high school with mock trial, and I think that given the right set of questions, one can make anyone concede to anything, by giving the particulars rather than generalizations.

While I enjoyed "Ion" much better than "Phaedrus" in content, I came to respect the format of Socrates' argument much better in "Phaedrus." As Churchhill states in his neat-o article, "Phaedrus had in mind for their outing a discussion of a speech...[but] the fact that this dialogue is itself a pice of writing masquerading as a living conversation is an irony Plato understands and uses in the dialogue itself."

Heck, I came to appreciate Socrates/Plato more period. People do not have dialogues anymore. As Churchill mentions, "Much of modern life has been accelerated and made more crowded by technological advances." Though I am going against some of the opinions I have previously held on the blogs, I think that we are missing something in our society, but the benefits usually outweigh the drawbacks. Sweeping generalization, I know, but still usually true. I hate using such qualifiers, but what can I say? I like political-correctness--usually. :-)

In any case, Churchill's article was the best part of my readings. In one section he defines a fact, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, and though I had never thought about these words as being progressive of one another, I like the breakdown.

As a journalist one Churchill quote ran me over,

"It is not that facts are not valuable. It is that in addition to possession of them, which is information, we need a sense of how they are connected, which is knowledge, a sense of how they came to be and how we came to know them, which is understanding, and a sense of what they mean for us, which is wisdom."

How applicable to the field of journalism. If only the facts alone would not carry so much weight, but also the factors involved in the attribution of those facts and the process which makes it common knowledge.


I know, I just went off on a journalism rant, but let me make an example. Islam in the media. When I told my Islam class that I was studying in a media field, I became a literal center of attention. People look at me when we talk about the media. I know that they are careful about what they say. The media has been biased and confused in the case of Muslim culture, but that is not to say that they are completely wrong.

They receive facts, and something may happen to that fact over time, which alters the perception of the audience consuming that fact. Thinking themselves wise in their factual knowledge, they forget that something has gone wrong in the process of conveying that message. In this Churchill, like Jerz, stands behind the peer-review: "There are large and important issues concerning the validation of sources and the acculturation of users to critical techniques for sorting the chaff from the wheat."

I stand behind the peer-review mentality, but the news is important, and to wait for it to pass through many people (beyond a newspaper editorial staff) is to deny the public that timely information.

However, we must remember, as Churchill concludes, to "embrace the technology, but in so doing we need to remember that the trail from data to wisdom is long and full of subtle turns."

As a journalist, I hope to make the road a little less sporadic.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at February 10, 2005 2:52 PM | TrackBack

I think a very important part of any kind of reporting is having thorough fact checkers. Our Magazine Writing teacher Mr. Picciarelli just told us this story about a well established writer who, after he gained the trust of his editors, began to completely fabricate and twist facts to his advantage. No one questioned him, because they believed him to be reliable. Going back to our discussion in class today about trusting information given to us by reliable sources, I think that while we need to trust the experts in our field, that trust shouldn't be unconditional. Any writer or editor needs to make sure the dirty work gets done.

Ok, I'm done ranting =)

Posted by: Johanna at February 10, 2005 8:48 PM

Ranting is fine by me, Johanna.

I am with you. We need to constantly assess whom we place that trust, almost in a paranoid fashion.

And in the same way that I would not want a C- doctor ripping open my chest during heart surgery, I would also not want a C- expert altering my perception of the world through slanted information.

Sometimes the best, most intriguing work is the dirty kind. :-)

Posted by: Amanda at February 11, 2005 3:42 PM
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