"Moderation, which consists in indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance." Plato (428 - 348 BC)
If I were forced to sum up the key to a meaningul life and, specificially to investing and personal finance, in one sentence, that quote from Plato would be it. In one sentence, the wisdom brillantly captures three absolutely necessary qualities of the prudent investor: Moderation, Emotional Balance, and Self-acquaintance (knowing yourself)...
As the other financial blogs begin the nail biting over the Fed's next move, we'll turn our focus to timeless wisdom for strength and perspective. This week's "focus on philosophy" features the great Plato...
Plato may be the most important of the ancient philosophers. He was the bridge from his mentor, Socrates, to his contemporary, Aristotle and is arguably the greatest philosopher that ever lived. His influence is enormous in Western culture. I could dedicate an entire blog to Plato but, to whet your appetite for learning more about "the philosopher king," here are some key points to know:
- Plato, who lived in ancient Greece, was the first philosopher to take all the main aspects of philosophy -- being, knowing, and acting -- and put them together in one coherent system.
- He was interested in politics as a young man but shifted toward philosophy when he came to believe that politicians did not think clearly enough about the proper relationship between order and the ideal truth. He became especially disillusioned with politics when Socrates was forced to renounce his philisophical beliefs or die: Socrates chose to die.
- Plato believed that the world would be a better place if "philosophers become kings" because they are unselfish and look to the good of all people.
- He theorized a republic divided into three classes of people: rulers, soldiers, and tradespeople. Of course, the rulers were philosophers! This ideal world (and much of his best-known work) can be found in Plato's The Republic.
- A key aspect to Plato's thinking is the idea of the idea. To Plato, ideas are forms that give their shape to ordinary reality. What's more, they are always right. It's the physical world -- the world of becoming -- that can be mistaken.
- Plato is often called a rationalist -- someone who believes we can know true ideas without ever learning them from experience.
In my view, to know Plato, or any philosopher, is to know their words of wisdom. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the philosopher king. Please give them some thought -- both as applications to investing and personal finance, but also to your life as well:
"A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers."
"Courage is knowing what not to fear."
"Excess generally causes reaction, and produces a change in the opposite direction."
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."
"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance."
"The most virtuous are those who content themselves with being virtuous without seeking to appear so."
"To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might have the less."
"Your silence gives consent."
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because the have to say something."
"Wonder is the feeling of the philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder."
If you are interested in learning more about Plato and the evolution of Philosophy itself, a wonderful place to begin is the primary source for the information in this post: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy, 3rd Edition.
Have a nice week. I'll be back with a narrative post on the financial markets soon...