Why Plato Would Have Blown it as a Blogger

Yep… you read that headline correctly.

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who studied under Socrates, mentored Aristotle, and founded the Academy in Athens, would have likely crashed and burned as a business blogger.

Why?

Well, first it’s helpful to talk a bit about those other two guys who came before and after Plato — Socrates and Aristotle.

Socrates pretty much gets credit for laying the foundation of Western philosophy. He devoted his life to teaching, and did so by what became known as the Socratic Method.

Socrates examined moral concepts by answering a student’s question by posing another question in return. In this way, Socrates fueled a continuing dialogue designed to allow his students to discover answers for themselves.

In other words, he was all about the conversation.

In contrast, Aristotle was all about authored content. He knew how to present compelling-structured stories that took the reader from Point A to Point B by engaging the emotions. His philosophy was that one can effectively teach and persuade through the art of rhetoric alone.

Contrary to Socrates, Aristotle might utilize rhetorical questions. His style was to use queries not to illicit an answer from the reader, but rather to make a powerful point.

Plato was the middle child. Because Socrates apparently never wrote down his teachings, much of what we know about him comes from Plato’s writings, which were most often in the form of dialogues.

Early on, these dialogues were structured in true Socratic fashion, and often featured conversations between Plato and his mentor. Later on, these dialogues turned to conversations in format only, and became more about what Plato wanted to emphasize rather than a recording of a true Socratic conversation.

This led to what’s known as the Socratic Problem. How much of what Plato wrote can be viewed as the actual teachings of Socrates, as opposed to a literary device designed to persuade the reader to accept Plato’s point of view?

Plato understood the power of conversation, but his methods made people doubt his authenticity.

In my opinion, you’ve got to provide strong, persuasive content like Aristotle to be an effective business blogger. But you’ve also got to have a healthy dose of Socrates in you, because the conversation is where the true power of blogging is.

As for Plato, well, let me ask you a question.

Given what you know about the swarming pile-on nature of the blogosphere, what do you think might happen if someone is discovered trying to manipulate the conversation through nefarious marketing and public relations techniques?

Whoops, sorry . . . I guess that’s actually a rhetorical question.

But I would like to talk with you more about it. :)

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Comments

  1. Hmm Brian, let me assume the thinker pose for a moment before I rhetoricate.

    I’d have to say Socrates was the internet marketing guru of the time, a master deligator. Aristotle and Plato were just his lackey copywriters.

    If he was around today he’d put his project up on elance. Get Aristotle to write the blog posts and sales letter, and give Plato the job of fattening out 40 pages of quality stuff into a 200 page ebook.

    Unless of course he received a cheaper bid from India. :)

  2. @Brian:

    what do you think might happen if someone is discovered trying to manipulate the conversation through nefarious marketing and public relations techniques?

    Anything manipulative pisses off people/readers big time.

    Although, always posing a question in return of a question (unless there is an answer, or a way to an answer is hidden in that question) too can become a big issue for surfers looking for “quick and applicable” answers, encouraging diolog is a good way of building an interactive and proactive community. Opinions and counter opinions always charge us up.

    @Simon:
    Regarding Simon’s remark Unless of course he received a cheaper bid from India.. Ummm…I’ll write a post on that :-)

  3. umm . . . even more links?

    Kind of like when BMW Spammed Google, got banned for two whole days, and got thousands more links from “outraged” bloggers.

    You’re still my favoriate blog, but that’s just because Twain doesn’t have one.

  4. But aren’t even “good” marketing techniques at its core, manipulative? Aren’t you still trying to get people what you want to do, although through admittedly less annoying and more persuasive methods? :-o

  5. What’s wrong with links? It would kill the effectiveness of the message to have to explain who the ancient Greek philosophers were to people who already know.

  6. I am just leaving a comment to point out something that leapt out of the page and poked me in the eye. This article consists of 10 paragraphs of undisputed and well researched material and suddenly out of the blue you write : “In my opinion, you’ve got to provide strong, persuasive content like Aristotle to be an effective business blogger. But you’ve also got to have a healthy dose of Socrates in you, because the conversation is where the true power of blogging is.”
    And that’s it. The end. No elaboration, no backing up of your statement, nothing.

    I know that “strong, persuasive content” is self explanatory but “conversation is where the true power [..] is” is a bold statement for this ego-projection mechanism called blogging.

    You should have kept on and discussed more of your opinion instead of making your readers go through all this facts that they probably already knew. At least that is what you do in the rest of your articles.

    But then again it’s only me and I’ll keep reading your posts no matter what so keep up the good work.

    an avid reader,
    Nikos
    Rodos Greece.

  7. Simon, funny. :)

    Amrit, your’e right — a true Socratic approach doesn’t work in modern marketing, but market conversations are still where everyone figures everything out; you and the customers. Tell strong stories, but don’t forget to truly listen and adjust accordingly.

    Rico, it’s a fine line between manipulation and persuasion, and it usually boils down to intent. Manipulation could be characterized as trying to get someone to believe a complete lie. People who view marketing that way aren’t ultimately that good at it.

    Brad, I think Quad is answering my question by saying one could get more links by manipulating — as in there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

    And Quad, I’m not sure the BMW case is what I had in mind — everyone tries to manipulate search engine results to some degree, and getting caught doing so only causes true outrage at the Googleplex. :)

  8. Niko, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve got more to say on the topic in later submissions, and I’m trying to keep my posts shorter when at all possible.

    But the real answer behind not elaborating on the “power of the conversation” was to see what kind of conversation sparked up right here.

    Thanks for joining in. :)

  9. I’m still laughing at Plato being described as the “middle child.” Funny…!

  10. Glad you liked that one Ann. :)

    BTW, I’ve been a fan of yours since way back in the early Clickz days. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. But then there’s the theory that Socrates never existed; he was made up my Plato. And though not the most widely accepted theory, if it were true, it might change things a bit. Would Socrates then become the greatest philosophical marketing icon of all time? And Plato a marketing genius?

  12. That would still make Plato a liar Jay, and unlike ancient Greece, these days you can get called out much quicker for that.

    But the theory that Socrates never existed doesn’t really hold water with me. What about the works of Xenophon, who was one of his contemporaries, and the satiric treatment of Socrates by Aristophanes?

    If Socrates is a fiction, Plato had plenty of help in making him up. :)

  13. Brian, I love that you debunk Plato here.

    Still, Plato’s allegory of the cave really applies to bloggers. (I like links, too.)

    Bloggers are unchained. Our eyes are still adjusting to the bright light, but we’re no longer chained to big media, stuck watching flickering shadows on a screen.

    And all we have is our own authenticity–either we report the truth of what we see. Or we lie. Eventually, the truth will out, and liars will end up in a million little pieces.

  14. Hmm. It’s ironic that a post about Socrates would generate so much argument. Forgive me Brian, but I’d like to add my two cents.

    Once again, I think it depends on your objectives as a blogger. If Plato’s objective was to get famous or influence the world, then he succeeded; millions of people read about him every year. On the ahead, if Plato’s objective was to build credibility, then I think he *might* have failed. The only reason I say “might” is we still attach a great deal of importance to what he said, even knowing that the dialogues were a fabrication.

    A great contemporary example is Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The tale of his two fathers is only partially true at best, but he has still maintained his position on the best-seller lists for years now. Some people *try* to destroy his credibility by pointing out that his Rich Dad doesn’t exist, but most people simply don’t care. They gained insight from the book, regardless of whether or not it’s true.

    Did it harm his credibility? Sure. But after becoming one of the most successful books of all time, who cares?

    The same goes for your post. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you were more interested in grabbing people’s attention and instigating conversation than making an impervious philosophical point about blogging. And you succeeded. I absolutely loved the post.

  15. >>I think you were more interested in grabbing people’s attention and instigating conversation than making an impervious philosophical point about blogging.

    Guilty. :)

    But I *am* concerned that as more people join in on business blogging, they will ignore (at their own peril) the necessity to be a straight shooter. It can get ugly fast if not.

    There’s nothing wrong with using literary devices — I love them. Substitute “traditional public relations practicioner” for “Plato” and you’ll see one right here.

  16. While I’m not qualified to speak for Nikos, I don’t believe his complaint was that your post was too long.

    In this post, you set up postulates and then made a logical jump to a conclusion without showing us how you got there. So at 445 words, your post might have been too short . . .

  17. Quad, I understand that.  I *chose* to keep it short, both for future follow-up and to spur commentary.

  18. Umm, you guys are a little harsh on Brian, sometimes.

    It gets a little monotonous to spell out everything in every how-to post you write. Sometimes, making a logical jump, deliberately leaving something out, or even writing something that you know doesn’t make sense keeps you sane.

    Also, generally speaking, completely logical posts are rather boring and don’t inspire much conversation. This post, on the other hand, is both interesting and incites people to comment.

    Give Brian some credit. He’s nearing 5000 RSS subscribers for a reason :-)

  19. Brian, Plato wouldn’t be a liar. If the theory were true, what Plato said through the character of Socrates would still be completely valid.

    Just like the Geico Gecko said, people love advertising icons. The Gecko is fictitious, but the message remains true: A 15 minute call could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.

    :)

  20. Jay, Plato represented that Socrates *really* said those things. And early on, that was most likely true.

    No one really believes that gecko is real, that’s the difference.

  21. conversations, discussions, debates, questions, answers, people connecting here on the net or in life… we all have agendas. What motivates us to discern, debate and topple those that deceive us – our safety and security. We want to believe those we put our trust in – actually we need to believe them because otherwise… we will feel foolish.

    It is a wise person that accepts the fact that everyone has an agenda, that we have needs we want filled and our actions are often fueled by those needs. It is not a matter of being distrustful or cynical but rather accepting that pure motives are rare.

    But there are unselfish motives with a tinge of self preservation – saints.

    Brian, you cut off the history lesson and stopped painting the bigger picture at a point where a readers thoughts could go in a million directions. It worked, as you can see by your comments and the discussions that ensued.

    Man, you’re an effective teacher in your own right.

  22. Damn lucky you’re a recovering lawyer, as you’re really a dangerous dude !

    Talk about the ability to cause a riot !

    Next thing we know you’ll be blogging about Notredameus !

  23. Wait till next week Mike…

    Kidding.

  24. Is it just me or do I see three rhetorical questsions in this blog alone? Oh – I guess there is another one. :) I think rhetorical questions are great for blogs as they spark interests. I use them for headlines a lot. Chad H.

  25. The most fascinating thing about Socrates is that he left his world without to write anything….. and for all of us is the biggest philosopher.

    I don´t know another marketing campaign that is still working after 2500 years.

    I see Socrates nowadays more, like a controversialist participating in a lot Blogging Roundtable Conferences, but without to write anything.

  26. Niko, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve got more to say on the topic in later submissions, and I’m trying to keep my posts shorter when at all possible.

    But the real answer behind not elaborating on the “power of the conversation” was to see what kind of conversation sparked up right here.