Currently, I am immersed in reading Dr. John Mark Reynold’s (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Biola University) unpublished (and heavily unedited) copy of his upcoming book “Athens and Jerusalem: The Triumph of Faith and Reason.” In the third chapter he summarizes Plato’s big three ideas: the theory of recollection, the theory of the forms, and the idea of the soul. I don’t plan on going into all the details of these ideas, but I want to post some comments of his that are particularly related to Platos theory of Recollection as well as how this idea has related to learning for myself:
“Recollection is not merely bringing to mind an intellectual concept once forgotten. For Plato, the idea is far more powerful. As a human is helped to recall, he passes through stages of thought and experience. he cannot rationally justify his satisfaction every step on the way. The would-be philosopher may make use of likely stories…, dialectic, and hypothesis to stimulate his memory. Once the memory is triggered, it seizes his mind, and his is changed. He can no longer doubt the truth of what he has remembered. He also understands the reasons for each step in the rational journey that led him to the recollection. Further memories of goodness, truth, and beauty are more likely. In fact, correctly used this one truth can be the key to unlock every important idea that he has forgotten.
Dr. Reynolds continues by describing the nature of this recollection experience, as understood according to Plato:
“This recollection is the most real experience a human being can have. It will seize every part of his being. Love for goodness drives the true philosopher to this recollection of truth. Once he finds it, this addiction to the overwhelming beauty of truth and goodness will keep him pursuing it. He will feel it emotionally and physically. Plato compares this experience to sex, to being dazzled by a great light, and to the most beautiful music that can be imagined. The true philosopher is the person who has had the mental, emotional, and gut level experience of truth. There is no need to encourage such a philosopher to continue his studies. The difficulty will be in getting him to do anything else.”
Those last couple sentences continually echoe in my ear. It’s fascinating how deeply and profoundly this has become true in my life. I don’t mean to say that I have become the latest and greatest “true philosopher”, only I mean that in my experience of learning I find that the more and more I immerse myself in pursuing and understanding truth the more and more I want to see it and taste it. Particularly influential in helping me to have this desire was the late C.S. Lewis. Coincedentally, or rather not so coincedentally, his teaching style is akin to Plato’s method as well. Lewis is a master at helping the student begin to desire truth. Furthermore, much like Plato he is able to imbed his worldview in a beautiful story that not only captures the mind, but the heart and soul as well. He allows the reader to see and begin to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Interestingly enough, my life has not always had an ardent desire to love the good, true, and beautiful. In fact, growing up my life was consistently rebellious toward these things. Yet, this was not because I was simply rebelling against what I knew to be good, true, and beautiful. In fact, I was quite ignorant of these ideas. Mainly, It was that I lacked a desire to see the goodness, and beauty in the things that purported to be true. Christianity claims to be the truth. Yet, many believe it to be a mere religion full of no-fun rules.
Yet quite the contrary. Jesus gives a message of life to all who will believe. And In Him lies the profoundest of all mysteries. When we see God face to face and see Him as He truly is how could we want to pursue anything else?