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Plato – Philosophy Essay

The Republic is one of Plato’s longer works (more than 450 pages in length). It is written in dialogue form (as are most of Plato’s books), & it addresses major issues in almost all of the branches of philosophy. The central theme in the book seems to be the nature of justice, a topic in political philosophy, but Plato also has his characters explore issues in ? philosophical cosmology, ? philosophical theology, ? philosophical anthropology, ? ethics, ? aesthetics, and ? epistemology.

The parts of the Republic that are contained in our text (pp. 107-123) focus on Plato’s idea (ideal?) of the Philosopher Ruler. According to Plato, ? the best possible political system (state) ? will be ruled (governed) ? by PHILOSOPHERS! (Is he kidding? ) Our reading selection contains the following themes/sections: ? ? Introduction on the unifying of philosophy & politics (107) Why “true philosophers” would make the best rulers (108-12) • What is “true philosophy”? (108-11) • Love of wisdom (108) • Knowledge of true reality (108-9) • The distinctions between knowledge, ignorance and opinion (109-11) • How is a “true philosopher” different from a “lover of opinion”?

(111-12) • Who is best suited to rule the state – lovers of opinion or “true philosophers”? (112) ? ? Political leadership and knowledge of the Good (112-13) The ascent of the mind to knowledge of the Good (113-123) • The analogy between the Good and the sun (113-15) • The image of the divided line (115-18) • The allegory of the cave (118-123) The selection in the text begins at a point in the Republic after Socrates, Glaucon, & other characters have been discussing the nature of justice and the marks of a just political system for some time.

So we are coming into the middle of the conversation where Glaucon is pressing Socrates to state whether it is possible for a really just political system to come into existence. Before answering Glaucon’s question, Socrates wonders whether it is worthwhile to What does he say construct a theoretical model of a good political system even if such a system could about this? Do you agree? Why not actually exist. or why not? Back to Glaucon’s original question: Can a really just (or at least approximately just) political system exist? What would make it possible? (It is the separation of philosophy & political power. ) And this leads to .

. . . unless political power & philosophy are brought together & those who now pursue either the one or the other exclusively are prevented from doing so -neither our political problems nor our human troubles in general can be ended . . . . ” (Text, pp. 108-111) True Philosophy & True Philosophers What are the characteristics of a person who is naturally suited to practice philosophy?

According to Socrates (Plato), a true philosopher ? loves the whole of wisdom and is satisfied with nothing less; ? recognizes the difference between particular things and the essences (or forms) of which particular things are likenesses (e.g. , beautiful things vs. Beauty itself); and ? knows the differences between knowledge, ignorance, and opinion.

Plato argues that someone who really loves something must love that thing as a whole and not just some aspects of it. On that basis, he concludes that a true philosopher (lover of wisdom) must desire wisdom as a whole and not be content with having just some wisdom. Do you agree with this? Do wine-lovers really love all wines? A true philosopher recognizes the difference between particular things and the essences (or forms) of which particular things are likenesses (e. g. , beautiful things vs.Beauty itself).

One of Plato’s major metaphysical theories is known as the “Theory of Forms. ” According to that theory, ultimate reality is a realm of forms (essences) not accessible to the senses but only to the mind (intellect). He calls that level of reality the “intelligible realm” (because it is accessible only to the intellect). The perceptible world (i. e. , the world we perceive through our senses) is a reflection or copy of that higher intelligible world. (The Greek word for “form” or “essence” is eidos. ) Do you think it is possible for one thing to be really more beautiful than another thing?

Well, how is that possible if Absolute Beauty does not exist? How can “A” be more beautiful than “B”? Doesn’t “A” have to be closer to Absolute Beauty than “B” is? But how can “A” be closer to (or “B” be further away from) Absolute Beauty if Absolute Beauty does not exist? A true philosopher knows the differences between ? Knowledge, ? ignorance, & ? opinion. Plato’s view of knowledge, ignorance, and opinion (Text, pp. 109-111) State of Mind Knowledge Opinion Ignorance Object What is (Being, Reality) What is & is not (Becoming) What is not (Nothingness, Unreality) Access Intellect Perception ? (Do you agree with this setup/theory?)

Is Plato right about knowledge, ignorance, and opinion? Here’s a different view…. What about knowledge? The three basic questions in epistemology ? ? What is knowledge? How does it differ from opinion? How do we acquire knowledge? What are its sources? Rationalism vs. Empiricism. (What about Intuitionism and Revelationism? ) ? What are the extent and limits of knowledge? What can be known, and what cannot be known? A (fairly) standard definition of knowledge (and opinion) ? Knowledge is “justified (i. e. , verified) true belief. “

• To know is to believe. • The belief must, in fact, be true. • The belief must be “justified” (i.e. , verified, proved) by some standard and generally recognized means. ? Opinion is belief that may be true or may be false but that has not been or cannot be “justified” (i. e. , verified, proved) by any standard and generally recognized means. Of course, some opinions that are rationally defensible in the weak sense are “justified” in a limited way. And what about ignorance? Isn’t ignorance basically an absence of knowledge? Of course, opinion is also an absence of knowledge. So perhaps ignorance is a certain or special kind of opinion that is in some sense groundless (in a way based on nothing, as Plato says).

? There seem to be various types of ignorance, including unintelligent ignorance, as when someone asserts dogmatically that a false proposition is true or that a true proposition is false. There is also intelligent ignorance, as when someone does not know X and acknowledges forthrightly that he does not know it, etc. More thought is needed on this matter…. ? However, Plato’s view of ignorance as having non-being (nothingness) as its object does not seem correct (or at least not completely correct).

? ? ? Lovers of wisdom (philosophers) — they recognize the existence of absolute, transcendental essences such as Beauty & Justice in themselves, and they seek knowledge of such absolutes. ? Lovers of opinion -they recognize only particular perceptible things & do not believe in the existence of absolute essences such as Beauty itself. So what is the nature of the Absolute Good? (Text, p. 112-113) In approaching the problem of defining the nature of the Absolute Good, Socrates (Plato) sets forth three very famous illustrations of his overall perspective on knowledge & reality.

These are I The Good & the Sun The Good is to the mind as the sun is to the eye, i.e. , just as the sun’s light enables the eye to see in the perceptible realm, so the Good illuminates the mind and enables it to “see” in the intelligible realm. (See text, pp. 113-115) 2 The divided line (Text, pp. 115-118) States of Consciousness Philosophical Wisdom E Objects of Consciousness The Good & Other Forms Knowledge D Intelligible Realm Scientific Knowledge Informed Opinion Delusion C B Mathematical & Scientific Objects Opinion Perceptible Objects Images Perceptible Realm A (Text, pp. 118-123) Can you link the images on the following slide to Plato’s depiction of the cave world on pp.

118-121 in the text? Now that the prisoner has “seen the light,” ? What might happen to him if he were to go back down into the cave-world? (pp. 119-121) ? How does he feel when he looks back down into the cave-world? (pp. 119) ? How does the allegory of the cave illustrate Plato’s overall view of knowledge and reality? (p. 121) More questions: ? What’s the philosophical difference between coming into the darkness from the light & coming into the light from the darkness? (p. 121) ? What, according to Plato, does the allegory of the cave tell us about what the process of education should be?

(pp. 121-122) there are the big questions: Why should we want philosophers to rule? How are we going to get them to rule? Since we are asking them to come back down into the cave-world, won’t we be doing them harm by making their lives worse rather than better? (Text, pp. 122-123) What do you think of the following statements by Plato (Socrates)? “The best rulers of the state are those who know the Good, who don’t look to politics for their happiness, & who live a higher life than the political life. ” “Political power should be held by those who do not want it. ” The End (for now).


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