Home Concepts Organizational Theory Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

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Dynamic Objectivism

While many of the critiques of static objectivism are societal products of late 20th and early 21st Century thought, there is a much earlier source: the voice of Socrates as heard through the writing of Plato. Socrates (Plato) offered a dynamic objectivism through an allegory of the cave. Let’s briefly visit this cave. It is filled with people who have lived all of their lives chained to a wall in the cave.  These people watch shadows projected on the wall in front of them. These shadows are being projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire that remains lit behind them. The cave dwellers believe the shadows are reality.

Are we all living in a cave? Do we never gain a clear view of reality, but instead view only the shadows that are projected on the walls of our cave? We live with an image of reality (shadows on the wall of the cave) rather than with reality itself. Plato concluded that we have no basis for knowing whether we are seeing the shadow or seeing reality, given that we have always lived in the cave. Plato thus speaks to us from many centuries past about the potential fallacy to be found in a static objectivist perspective regarding the world—since we can never know whether we are living in the cave or living in the world of reality outside the cave.

What about the cave in which those working in the Singapore-based  St. Vincent DePaul organization live? Given the “mentality” (perspectives and frameworks) of St. Vincent DePaul members, they find it hard to consider alternative perspectives and frameworks. They are not able to see beyond the shadows on the walls of their own cave. These Vincentians refuse to channel FINs to case workers–those who can professionally evaluate their clients (enabling the volunteers to engage their FIN familiar in a more productive and collaborative manner.) This has stifled growth of the St. Vincent DePaul Society and has made the task of managing cases more complex. Additionally, as most of the Vincentians are in their 50s, this has made it more difficult to recruit youthful volunteers who are privy to modern and sophisticated methods of helping people.

In order to circumvent this resistance, the Executive Director has embarked on numerous training programs. He has encouraged outreaching with other agencies and has been involved in personally educating the public–hoping that this will allow existing members to see value in adopting a new manner of thinking and recruiting additional helping hands. All of this is focused on fruitful engagement and outcome for the FIN. Although some members have seen the potential of this “new” approach, it is a gradual process. A radical mind-set change must eventually occur. While members of the St. Vincent DePaul organization must remain committed to the long-standing cause of their organization, they must also free themselves from the cave–so that they can witness a “new world” of professionalized public service outside this cave.

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