Marco Rubio spoke to Brian Kilmeade on Fox News and the two joked that Plato, the father of Western philosophy, should have been a welder rather than “yapping about his philosophy.” Why? Because according to Rubio, welders make more money (they do not – they make less, only $58,000 compared to $97,000).
Facts haven’t stopped Rubio from saying things like, “So, you can decide if it’s worth borrowing $50,000 to major in Greek philosophy. Because after all, the market for Greek philosophers has been very tight for 2,000 years.”
So Fox News of course, having no more use for higher education than any other conservative source, immediately inviting Rubio on to lie some more, and was asked by Kilmeade on Fox & Friends,
“You said we need welders, that welders get paid more than philosophers.” We’re getting too many people with philosophy degrees. Here’s your tweet. ‘The Google trend, searches for welding classes are spiking 1300%.’ Are you happy to be behind the welders today?”
“For the life of me I don’t know why we stopped teaching Americans to do that kind of work, to work with their hands,” Rubio answered. “These are good paying jobs. We can be teaching kids to do that when they’re 16 or 17 years of age, and there’s a shortage of people.”
Which prompted an attempt at wit by Kilmeade: “Plato would have been so much more successful if he had just welded and stopped yapping about his philosophy.” Rubio agreed that Plato was a failure: “If you can find a philosopher that can weld, that’s pretty good.”
Of course, Plato, was no physical lightweight. Like every other free Athenian male, he would have served in the army in times of war. And we are told by ancient biographer Diogenes Laërtius, that Plato, who was born Aristocles, came to be called “Platon,” which means “broad,” and he might well have had broad shoulders because Aristotle’s pupil Dicaearchus tells us that Plato wrestled at the Isthmian games, which were like the Olympic games and only a little less in stature.
Dicaerchus himself was a geographer and cartographer as well as a philosopher, and one of the fathers of cartography, to which he could never have aspired had he not been a pupil of Aristotle, who himself owed his breadth of knowledge and education to Plato. But yes, Plato should have become a welder instead. Who needs geography and maps?
We do, and we need the men and women whose thought has given us these treasures. Greek philosophers were the scientists of their day; mathematicians, like Hypatia of Alexandria, who was torn apart by a mob of black-robed Christian monks in the fifth century for daring to study astronomy.
Let’s talk about science then, shall we, and math. Plato founded the first institute of higher learning in the West – the Academy, which lasted for many centuries until a Christian emperor shut down a place where inconvenient questions were asked in violation of Christianity’s precept of “Don’t ask questions; just believe.”
Hypatia had asked questions, as philosophers continue to do down to this day. It is easy to see why Kilmeade and Rubio, who does not flourish under questioning, would find this a distasteful occupation.
Well, Plato didn’t believe in just believing. He believed in asking questions and finding answers, as near as they could be found, like his master Socrates, who was forced to drink hemlock because his own questions were so unsettling to the powers that be. Plato’s own pupil, Aristotle, was one of the father’s of science, and studied motion, optics, biology, medicine, and psychology, as well as ethics.
Plato himself was a mathematician, and Eudemus of Rhodes (c. 340 BC) was quoted in Proclus’ commentaries on Euclid as saying, “He filled his writings with mathematical discoveries, and exhibited on every occasion the remarkable connection between mathematics and philosophy.”
Marco Rubio, who has shown himself a hair more intelligent than Ben Carson, would have done well not to cross the street to pick a fight with Plato, who, down the long echoing pages of history, has a couple of things to say about people like Rubio. In his Gorgias, Plato says,
“Rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong … And so the rhetorician’s business is not to instruct a law court or a public meeting in matters of right and wrong, but only to make them believe.”
This is how Plato arrived at this conclusion, utterly destroying the Republican (and Rubio’s) dream of having their own facts:
Socrates: Then do you think that having learnt and having believed, or learning and belief, are the same thing, or different?
Gorgias: In my opinion, Socrates, they are different.
Socrates: And your opinion is right, as you can prove in this way: if some one asked you—Is there, Gorgias, a false and a true belief?—you would say, Yes, I imagine.
Gorgias: I should.
Socrates: But now, is there a false and a true knowledge?
Gorgias: Surely not.
Socrates: So it is evident again that they are not the same.
Gorgias: You are right.
Nor would Plato have had any use for Fox News:
“Then the case is the same in all the other arts for the orator and his rhetoric; there is no need to know the truth of the actual matters, but one merely needs to have discovered some device of persuasion which will make one appear to those who do not know to know better than those who know.”
In truth, the West owes an immense debt to Plato and his Academy for it is from the Greek philosophers that we have our science, which explains to us how the universe works and has given us all the many things that make live better today than it was for our fathers or grandfathers – and for Plato himself.
In parting, we might note that Rubio himself did not go to school to become a welder, but chose to study law at an institute of higher learning, something we might not have but for Plato.
Why? Because he would rather make money for failing to show up for his job than be a welder, where if he showed the same dedication to his craft that he shows as a public servant, he would surely have been fired for laziness.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.