Monday, September 12, 2011

My Table Confirms Plato

I found an old table that I couldn't resist buying, although I don't have much room for it. This table illustrates Plato's theory about innate knowledge and the eternal soul. Not bad for a piece of furniture.

In the dialogue Meno Socrates helps a slave boy find out how to double the area of a square, by making its diagonal the side of the bigger square. Although the slave boy has no previous knowledge of geometry, he soon succeeds.

To Socrates, this proves that the boy must have had this knowledge from the beginning, even before he was born. This, Socrates argues, must be true for all knowledge and all men. We only have to recollect it. He continues:

“And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember.”

Not everyone would agree with his conclusions, but Plato has a point: knowledge would be impossible without the ability to reach it, and that's human nature. It might not be eternal, but its seed precedes the birth of the body. Plato linked this prior ability to the soul, whereas modern science houses it in the gene.

My table makes no statement about either genetics or the imortality of the soul, but it joins the slave boy's struggle with the squares, as can be seen on the animation above. It transforms from one square to another with twice the area. Plato would approve.

But would he equip the table with an eternal soul?


  1. Det kallas "munkbord" om jag inte tar helt fel! till exempel


  2. Mia, thanks for the info. So, in Sweden it's called "monk's table" - well, the monks have always been eager students of Plato.

    Anyone knows what this particular kind of drop-leaf table is called in English?

  3. Drop - leaf table I guess... I was researching Pythagoras for a paper and I came to your site. I was wondering many times if we inherit the knowledge of our ancestor at conception. It can be an interesting subject to research.

  4. There's not much difference between the capacity to learn all, and having it to begin with. At the very least, we have the capacity to begin with. One more reason for the necessity of democracy and equality.

  5. Simply put, a drop leaf table is one divided into three sections. The sections at either end are hinged to allow them to be “dropped” down. When the table has both ends dropped, it becomes very narrow, and places easily against a wall. In this configuration, it’s the perfect “table for two”.drop leaf table
    thank for this post.

  6. Dave. then my Plato table is in a class of its own, with five sections. Befitting Plato.
    So, you have a whole website devoted to drop leaf tables? Neat.