15 September 2006

Morgan Socrates

If the soul of Socrates did not, after all, escape the cycle of reincarnation, perhaps today we might be most likely to encounter it as incarnated in the body, not of a philosophy professor, but of a financial adviser--for, if Jonathan Clements in the Wednesday's Wall Street Journal is correct ("Touchy-Feely Finances"), such a person is more likely than a philospher to be found asking properly Socratic questions.

It seems that financial advisers are nowadays engaged in protreptic, recommending such things as the following:

Sit down with, say, your spouse and ask, "What's important about money to you?" If your spouse responds that money is important because it buys freedom, you would ask, "What's important about freedom to you?" If your spouse says this freedom would provide more time for leisure activities, you would ask, "What's important about having more leisure time to you?" And so it goes on for maybe seven or 10 questions.
(Really? What could those other 10 questions be?)

One financial adviser who takes this approach says that "The first few words that frequently come out of people's mouths are words like 'freedom' and 'security' and 'not having to worry about the bills"....
But as the questioning progresses, 'there are a lot of different responses. People start to talk about God or fulfillment or their purpose.' While the aim is to get through the conversation in one sitting, you may stall out and need to try again later. Even if you never finish, you will likely find the exercise prompts some soul searching--and you will have a better idea for why you're stuffing those dollars into your 401(k).
The unexamined life is not worth living, indeed. And isn't "soul searching" another name for "philosophy"?