The soul needs to ask the hard questions about life such as man’s role in nature, and address them. The best way to accomplish that is by doing it with people who have the same longings, in a friendly, educated, civilized, yet natural environment like the symposium of the Greeks. Plato and Socrates were looking for answers together, despite all the political and cultural turmoil that was going around them, such as an inevitable war and the decline of their Greek empire. Open discussion in communities allows people to find solutions for the common good through knowledge; democracy can defeat this purpose by not sparking in its society, passions in the quest for knowledge. This is the type of community that Bloom suggests we should embrace a symposium in the American society and especially in the universities. The university has been influenced by society and political thought, thus influenced by the majority. Democracy has given birth to egalitarianism, which in turn has made a society that wants to grow from past mistake in history. By knowing history, it is possible to know what they have done wrong, and by knowing what people have done wrong, people can improve themselves; thus, people can avoid repeating the same mistakes. While I disagree that modern philosophy, based on relativism in the American mind, has led the university curricula and society into a crisis, and extinguished passions based in man’s nature, I agree with Bloom that there are ideas, which are better than others, and that an open discourse or symposium without clashes or an unfriendly environment are needed in the American society and universities.
In Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom explains two types of openness: the openness of indifference –promoted with the twin purposes of humbling our intellectual pride and letting us be whatever we want to be, just as long as we don’t want to be knowers- and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude. (41)
Bloom attributes the first kind of openness to America’s democracy. This means that democracy has turned members of society into individuals, who abandon desire for knowledge and suppresses true openness, but scientifically or intellectually, people are free to do whatever they wish, so being free has no correlation with having or not having a desire to know. For example, democracy allows me to pursue my passions and dreams without the distractions of having to search for food or worry about my security, which could distract me from my main goals. If what Bloom proposed was true, democracy would have suppressed knowledge and nobody would have graduated from college. Furthermore, humans beings would still live in the dark ages; yet within the last 20 years, human beings have developed the most advanced technologies in various fields such as in medicine, environment, information, robotics, access to knowledge, and of any period in human history. On the other hand, Bloom supports the second type of openness, which encourages students to search for knowledge of what is good for them and their natural instincts to be better than others. He says that the educational system uses the wrong kind of openness, because students can’t defend their opinions, since in a democracy all ideas are good. This creates an environment that does not inspire students to think or find better reasoning; thus, modern educational curricula utilizes the wrong openness that is required for “the education of a democratic personality” (Bloom, 27). Bloom explains, “there was a tendency,…. to homogenize nature itself” and adds “[recent education] pays no attention to natural rights” (27). Bloom says that, there are no shared goals for the common good in democracies because a democratic society is an enemy to all those people who are not open to all ideologies, lifestyles and kinds of men. He also adds that being better than others is part of human nature, and democracy suppresses