Plato's Allegory and WYSIATI
Plato was a clever guy, a philosopher and mathematician in Classical Greece, and the founder of the first academy in Athens, the first centre of higher education in the West. His teacher was Socrates and his most famous student was Aristotle. Although Plato is long gone, and despite science having progressed so much since his lifetime, some of his lessons are still unavoidably true and relevant to modern life.
One of his most famous teachings is known as ‘The Allegory of the Cave’. The story speaks about how three prisoners in cave, where they had lived for their whole lives, believed that the shadows they saw on the walls of the cave represented the whole of human existence. Well, why wouldn’t they believe such nonsense? It’s all they knew! However, those images obviously didn’t represent reality - only their reality.
Therefore, isn't it possible for all of us to succumb to the same belief: all we know is all there is?
Modern Times - WYSIATI
In his book, noble prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, wrote about a tendency that we have to assume that what we see is all that exists. He called it "What You See Is All There Is” or WYSIATI, and gave a great business example:
What You See Is All There Is
'I know this report is absolutely damming and it may be based on solid evidence, but how sure are we? We must allow for that uncertainty in our thinking.'
- Daniel Kahneman, 'Thinking Fast and Slow'
It’s a strong point and many of us are guilty of falling for this a lot of the time. So if you think about assumptions that you have made, perhaps ones that have held you back or stopped you doing what you wanted to do - ask yourself ‘am I 100% certain, that without a shadow of doubt, I know this to be true?’ You may be surprised by your answers and find solutions to some of your current challenges.
Thanks for reading. Ronan.
- Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Kraut, R. (2004) Plato. Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).
- TED-Ed (2015) Plato’s allegory of the cave - Alex Gendler. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWOpQXTltA (Accessed: 20 November 2015).