Plato was born in 427 B. C. into a wealthy family that was both aristocratic and politically influential. His family had a rich history of political connections and consisted of his parents, Ariston and Perictione, his older brothers Adeimantus and Glawcon, and later a younger sister, Potone. “In keeping with his family heritage, Plato was destined for the political life”(Beavers and Planeaux). During Platos early years he was instructed by eminent teachers in grammar, music, and gymnastics.
Plato also had literary aspirations directed particularly toward creative work in poetry and tragedy”(Sahakian 32). Plato mainly engaged in many forms of poetry, only later turning to philosophy. As a young man, during the final years of the Peloponnesian War when Athens was in urgent need of manpower, Plato served in the army. According to Sahakian, Plato seemed destined to pursue a public career until he became a disciple of Socrates (Sahakian 32). Plato was in his twenties when he directed his inquires toward the question of virtue.
Plato became a faithful disciple of Socrates not only through Socrates’ remaining life, but after his death as well. Cornford believed: “It was the unique good fortune of Socrates to have, among his young ompanions, one who was not only to become a writer of incomparable skill, but was, by native gift, a poet and a thinker no less subtle than Socrates himself”(Cornford 55). Plato was twenty-eight when Socrates died and he was committed to refining and extending the Socratic principles.
He also devoted his time to defining the Socratic method of inquiry against criticism. From Socrates Plato learnt that problems of human life were to be solved by the morality of aspiration and the pursuit of an invariable ideal of perfection” (Cornford 63). Behind all of Plato’s beliefs is a Socratic motive in which he derived. Plato unified his beliefs of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics into a single inquiry. He found that the formation of a noble character was to be before all else.
The format in which Plato used to unify his beliefs is unknown, but events during his life, like the chaos of Athens final defeat in 404 B. C. re believed to help his unification. During this time of unification, Plato began to travel. “Plato was forty when he visited Italy for the first time and shortly thereafter he returned to Athens and founded the Academus Academy, located nearly a mile outside the city walls and named after the Attic hero Academus” (Beavers and Planeaux). The Academy was an independent institution of learning and can be seen as the precursor of today’s modern university. Falikowski writes that: “The Academy was a quiet retreat where teachers and students could meet to pursue knowledge…
Students throughout Greece enrolled to portake in the adventure of learning and to experience personal growth toward wisdom” (Falikowski 15). The primary goal of the Academy was to educate citizens for statesmanship. Plato, like Socrates, did not except fees for his teaching. The Academy was left to the son of Plato’s sister, Speusippus, when Plato died in 347B. C. Emperor Justinian then closed the Academy in 529B. C. Vision of the Soul “In his writings, Plato addressed perennial questions like “What constitutes the good life? ” and “What sort of individual should I strive to become? (Falikowski 16).
To answer such questions, Plato paid particular attention to the soul. Plato assigned the human soul an intermediary position between the World of Becoming and the World of Ideal Being. The soul to him was immortal by nature, even though it is not external. The soul unlike physical things, can survive change. Plato envisioned the soul as having three divisions with individual duties. These divisions were made up of the reason, spirit, and appetite. The reason is the part we might refer to as the intellect, “It seeks knowledge and understanding.
The ability to think and make up our minds before we act, is by means of reason” (Falikowski 17). In other words, it is passion, which includes our self-assertive tendencies. “As the emotional element of the psyche, spirit manifests itself in our need to love and be loved” (Falikowski 17). When we wish to make an impression, to make us be accepted and or admired by others, or when we work hard to be liked, our spirit is our motivating orce. The third division is our appetite. The appetite or “desire,” the physical side of our selves, seeks to satisfy our biological instinctive urges.
According to Falikowski: “Plato describes it metaphorically using the example of a charioteer in control of two horses. The charioteer symbolizes the faculty of reason; the horses represent appetite and spirit. One horse (appetite) “needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only. ” The other horse (spirit) is unruly, “the mate of insolence and pride… hardly yielding to whip and spur. ” While the charioteer (reason) has a clear ision of the destination and the good horse is on track, the bad horse “plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to his companion and charioteer” (Falikowski18).
In Plato’s scenario, the charioteer’s job is to guide and control the horses. The problem is that the two horses are moving in different directions and the charioteer’s commands go unheeded. “Just as both horses are necessary to achieve the charioteer’s goal: it harnesses the power of appetite and spirit are indispensable to reason” (Falikowski 19). Like the horses, if appetite and spirit work together, the reason reaches its identified destination. In The Republic, different functioning “souls” are described using the notion of Plato’s character types” (Falikowski 27).
Plato saw the soul having five different character types, four being imperfect types, and one being the ideal character. The four imperfect types were referred to as the timarchic, democratic, tyrannical, and oligarchic characters. “The ideal character is exemplified by the philosopher king or ruler” (Falikowski 27). Plato saw the timarchic character as a soul driven by spirit. These individuals are self-assertive and spirit dominated. Usually these types are insecure and competitive. Falikowski refers to the timarchic character as looking out for number one (Falikowski 30).
The democratic character is a character, which does not distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary. “This type of character lives from day to day, indulging in any momentary pleasure that presents itself” (Falikowski 32). Falikowski states that: Democrates are like children in a candy store. They are excited, but torn a part inside because they want everything in the store at the same time- and this is impossible (Falikowski 33). A tyrannical character is termed by Plato to be the worst. This character is the most unhappy and undesirable.
Falikowski quotes Plato saying an excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny” (Falikowski 33). Tyrannical characters are the least self-sufficient of all types with no control over aggressive bestial urges. The last imperfect individual discussed, is the oligarchic character. Oligarchic types are driven by appetite and lack moral convictions and inner peace. Pride, in these individuals, is usually replaced with greed, as well as replacing ambition with avarice.
Plato is again quoted by Falikowski as saying “and the higher the status of wealth and the wealthy, the lower that of goodness and good men will be” (Falikowski 31). The Philosopher Kings/Rulers are individuals that are not enslaved with physical appetites or material desires. The character type is wise, just, and display the virtue of courage. “Philosopher Kings are enlightened by fantasies and temptations, but are guided on the right path by the light of true moral goodness” (Falikowski 29). The Five Great Dialogues The Crito The Crito was a dialogue that took place in Socrates’ cell, while
Socrates counted down the days till his arranged death. Loomis breifly describes Crito by saying: “Crito, an old and tired friend of Socrates, one of those who at his trail and had volunteered to make up the sum of any fine that might be imposed on him, visits him in a last desperate effort to persuade him to allow his friends to buy off the jailers and whatever spy informers may be about and arrange for his escape that night to Thessaly or to some other place, where he can live in safety”(Loomis 63). The conservation between Socrates, and Crito himself, is what makes up the dialogue. The Phaedo was another great dialogue.
Loomis states: “The dialogue may well represent truly the grandeur, composure, and reasonableness of Socrates in the face of death and his compassionate concern for his friends whom he wished to fortify with something of his own strength” (83). The Phaedo was the dialogue that told the story of the passing hours before Socrates death. “Accordingly Phaedo, who had sat on a stool beside Socrates that last afternoon, while Socrates hand stroked his hair, tells them in full the story of what was done and said” (Loomis 83). The dialogue was narrated by Phaedo and is shared by Crito, Appollodorus, and other native Athenions.
Plato was not present, due to illness. Loomis writes, that the subject on hand was the reasons why a philosopher should welcome release from the chain of the body and be certain that his soul was immortal (83). The dialogue covers Socrates’ ideas on pain and pleasure, suicide, truth and thought, absolute justice, beauty and good, body vs. true being, seen and unseen, and others thoughts that crossed the conversation in Socrates’ final hours. The personality of Socrates and the thought of Plato together make the Phaedo what it is, an unforgettable picture of one of the most noble scenes in European literature.
The Phaedrus “Central to Plato’s thought is the soul, its nature is at the heart of the Pheadrus, when, driven by love, it express its feeling through speech (logos)”(Suzanne). The Phaedrus combines youthful freshness and a perfect philosophical maturity, which makes it unique. Ross claims that: It would be truer to describe it as standing at a transition point of Plato’s thought, in which he is passing from the assertion of the existence of ideas to study the structure of the hierarchy which they form” (Ross 81).
Ross also states that: In the Phaedrus, Plato defines temperance as the being guided by the disire f the best. We must suppose that on such lines as these he believed the essence of all the virtues to consist in some definite relation of the Idea of Good (Ross 42). The Symposium “Not long after he wrote the Phaedo, some twelve or fifteen years after Socrates’ death, Plato composed the lovely dialogue known as the Symposium” (Loomis 157). This dialogue has a lighthearted and happy atmosphere, which deals with life and love instead of death and the chances of immortality.
The main characters of the particular dialogue are Apollodorus and Socrates. Sahakian defines the Symposium: A dinner party was the setting for Plato’s Symposium, a term referring to a discussion following the presentation of papers by individuals participating in a seminar, but meaning literally drinking together, with overtones of conviviality and entertainment hence a drinking party” (Sahakian 25). The speeches that make up the Symposium are speeches about the soul driving power of love.
The Republic, according to Loomis: “Is both the greatest and the longest, except for one, of all Plato’s dialogues… No other has the same breadth of sweep, from earth to sky and back again, or attempts so earnestly to bring philosophy, the pursuit of an deal wisdom and goodness, into active, useful connection with everyday life of humanity” (218). “The Republic, however, is a mature work of his middle life. If could not be written until Plato had read the secret of Socrates’ inmost thought and formulated its essential significance” (Cornford 58).
The Republic contains ten dialogues with different aspects. Loomis states an aspect before each dialogue. Book I, he states: What is justice? Is the just life happier than the unjust? (221). He refers to Book II as the life of an well-ordered state and education of its soldier citizens in music and gymnastics, and in right ideas of God (253). Exclusion of the poets from the schools is in Book III, as well as the Value of the right sort of music and gymnastics. Book IV, he includes the virtues of such a state-wisdom, courage, and temperance.
Justice is also to be found there. The same virtues appear in life of an well-ordered individual (306). In Book V the education of women, community of wives and children in the governing classes, humanity in war, and rulers must be philosophers, are all discussed. The idea of the Good is the topic of conversation for Book VI. Loomis began quoting Book VII with the figure of mankind in the dark cave ith special education and training of rulers in science, philosophy and practice of government (398).
Book VIII and IX of the Republic touches base with Plato’s belief in character types. Book X, the last of the Republic, is “further reasons for excluding poetry form the state and the rewords of justice and wisdom in this life and the next” (Loomis 477). The Republic as a whole, deals with the Idea of good. It states, and elaborates on the Phaedo, where the Idea of good, is already stated, he claims that: “Many interpreters of Plato have said that in his system God and he Idea of good are identical; but this view cannot be maintained.
It would be truer to say two things: First, that while any Idea, and therefore the Idea of good, is for Plato always a universal, a nature, wherever he speaks of God he means a being having a nature, and in particular not goodness, but a supremely good being” (Ross 43). In the Republic, it is taught, not that goodness is good, but that the Governor of the universe is good. The Idea of man is also described in the Republic. This was the opinion of Socrates that made a man in his soul, just. The famous dialogue is concluded with “the good beyond being” and an nderstanding of what drives a “being” and types of “being” in and outside the mind.
Plato saw the soul as the principal of life and movement. The inanimate bodily self must have a motive for movement and to Plato this motive is the soul. Through Plato’s life, beginning in 427 and ending in 347 B. C. E. , he thoroughly defined his true beliefs and ideas. He also elaborated on Socrates’ true thoughts. “His importance to intellectual history was underscored by Alfred North Whitehead, who once stated that all of western philosophy is but a series of footnotes on the work of Plato” (Falikowski 15).