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Plato's Infinate Wisdom

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Running head: PLATO’S INFINATE

Plato’s Infinite Wisdom

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February 23rd, 2008

The University of Montana-Western

Plato’s Infinite Wisdom
Plato was, and remains a very influential and relevant Greek philosopher that lived between (427 and 347 B.C.E) (Stevenson and Haberman, 2004). Plato was extremely diverse and accomplished in his lifetime achievements. His rise to fame began as a student of the great philosopher Socrates, but progressed into many other dignified positions. He is accredited with teaching another great philosopher and scientist named Aristotle, who later taught Alexander the Great. Plato also founded the worlds’ first formal university in Athens called The Academy (Brickhouse, 2006). Plato’s philosophical research was far deeper than anything previously explored and transcends 2500 years without losing modern applicability. His vast writings began with the study of human nature, ethics, morals, knowledge, and progressed into complex theories on reality, dualism, government and the human soul. The most famous of these dialogues, The Republic, but later works like The Laws and The Statesman are equally impressive. Plato believed education, knowledge, and truth were essential for society to become moral and just. The outcome of successful societies was stability and peace. Personally, Plato believed in a spiritual gain given to those who succeed, but his theories were not based on personal beliefs like the widely disputed and ever-changing concept of religion. These observations and suggestion came from a lifetime dedicated to research and truth.
Plato’s experience with government and society contributed to his deep-seated skepticism of reality. He split reality into physical and conceptual categories that evolved into his famous yet abstract Theory of Forms. Forms, as Plato believed, are the unchanging ideas, or concepts of the physical world (Brickhouse, 2006). The great philosopher concluded that most humans had an altered sense of reality that could only be clarified through the knowledge of forms. This theory is used commonly in Plato’s earlier dialogues to discredit the legitimacy of democracy. Although Plato advocated justice, he believed giving the lower class population a say in government was dangerous and irresponsible. That being said, Plato would probably approve of our modern democracy because the core content he originally objected is scarcely visible and the majority of our governments’ decisions are based on a genuine knowledge of the facts. An illustration of Plato’s thoughts on reality and knowledge, The Allegory of the Cave, describes a metaphorical situation in which humans live their lives with a completely false sense of reality. This theory is easily translated into my own life and modern society. The prisoners in Plato’s system represent my daughter and me, while the figurative cave is obviously the small, prejudiced community in which I recently became a resident. The voices bouncing off the walls represent my own knowledge, experience and desire to change narrow-minded opinions I hear daily. The infamous shadows represent the warped interpretations people accept about things they do not fully understand. The light in Plato’s version represents my future, my daughters’ future and the goals I strive to reach. The restricting shackles holding the prisoners captive parallel the issues holding me back. Like the cave, my situation is the result of ignorance, but the inconvenience was completely necessary in order to clarify my own perception of reality. Being a single mother, working full time swing shifts, attending school full time, living paycheck to paycheck and generally struggling are the shackles that hold me back, but they also serve as motivation and daily reminders of the easy life I took for granted. The problems Plato has with democracy are similar to the conclusions he draws about the human race. The three types of people Plato describes are based upon the dominant desire of ones’ soul. Plato, in his desire to create the perfect city, prophesized that those ruled by reason were the only type fit to rule society. Those individuals ruled by appetite or victories were still considered essential for daily operation, but unfit for government (Kemerling, 2001). Plato, in his earlier days, advocated strict control over society to maintain order, but as he aged, his opinions on freedom and democracy changed from disapproval to moderate approval. He eventually had to admit to himself that the perfect city he imagined was not feasible and that democracy may better suit society.
Plato felt like the ignorance of common people led to the instability of an entire society. Examples of people ruled by appetite appear on the news every evening, others camouflage their intentions and end up holding office, making decision, or running the government. In 2006, there were approximately 17,034 murders, 100,000 hate crimes and over 2 million people in the American prison system. America is the leading industrial and technological power of the world and contains the largest and most powerful economy on earth, yet 12 percent of our population lives in poverty. That same population consumes more cocaine, ecstasy, heroine and meth than any other country (Central Intelligence Agency, 2008). America could benefit greatly from a leader ruled by reason and more citizens who chose morality over profit. Our country seems like a prime example of what Plato predicted would happen if ignorant people ruled (Tate, 1929).
Plato’s opinion on human nature was very optimistic in earlier dialogues, but grew less confident as his contemplation deepened. Leading a good life or ruling an ideal society, as Plato describes, is essential to achieving true happiness. A good life consists of obtaining a true understanding of reality through education, morality, tolerance and appreciation of soulful beauty. I believe that human nature is essentially good, but I also feel the nature of our character is shaped by our environment. The education Plato emphasizes does not refer to the knowledge obtained at school alone, but education through example and behavior. As evident in the crime statistics above, society would benefit greatly if parents raised their children with stronger morals, more supervision and a better understanding of human nature and reality.
References

Central Intelligence Agency, (2008, February). The world factbook. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from United States Web site: http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html
Brickhouse, T. (2006). Plato. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Web site: http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/plato.htm
Kemerling, G. (2001). Plato: the state and the soul. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from www.philosophypages.com Web sitehttp://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2g.htm
Stevenson, L., & Haberman, D. (2004). Ten theories on human nature. (4th Ed.) New York: Oxford University Press.
Tate, J. (1929). Plato and allegorical interpretation. The Classical Quarterly, 23,Retrieved February 20, 2008, from
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=00098388%28192907%2F10%291%3A23%3A3%…...

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