In his works, Plato writes about truth, justice, and reality in full detail. His ideas are greatly deep and persuasively argued. It is from him that all western philosophy is a footnote. He describes his view in a series of numerous dialogues. For my report, I have chosen four of his works to study, which I think were his most important. “The Republic” is a dialogue composed of 10 books. The theme in its entirety is justice. The characters of the dialogue are Socrates, who is the narrator; Glaucon and Adeimantus, brothers of Plato; Cephalus, a rich old man; Polemarchus, son of Plato; Thrasymachus, a Sophist; and Cleitophon.
The dialogue takes place in the house of Cephalus. Book I of “The Republic” deals with the nature of justice. It shows the widest variety of detail and avoids skeletel simplicty. It tells life is complex and theory is no substitue for it. Book I starts off with Polemarchus saying justice is obedience to some kind of principle. Socrates counters with the fact that justice involves an act of evaluation and the creation of evil. Thrasymachus enters the argument and says justice is nothing but the interest of the stronger, injustice can gain more than justice.
Socrates ends the book by saying injustice destroys individuals and states. In Book II, Glaucon joins the argument. Glaucon says what men want is to commit injustices and get away with them. He says justice is not a good, but a lesser evil. Adeimantus backs him up by saying justice is pushed only for success, thus defeating justice. Socrates counters indirectly, but saves his true reponse till later in “The Republic. ” He says men will form a state from necessity. This state will eventually fight a war and soldiers will be needed.
To train these soldiers, we need not what Homer has shown that the gods can do terrible things, but that they are perfect. Book III is a various discussion of references and beauty. He goes back to the soldier who must not fear death, but praise it. Socrates then states rulers must use propaganda for the prosperity of the state. Socrates proceeds to discuss the condemnation of imitation because it is unreal. With this comes the idea of a new poet who does not imitate. The new poet must have a balanced soul. He brings the idea of a balanced soul into his view of the ideal ruler. This ruler does not own property.
Book IV highlights three main points : the togetherness of all elements, the idea that whatever happens to the state happens to the individual, and a discussion in which virtues act in the state and the soul. Plato starts this book by saying that ethics and politics are the same. Adeimantus questions Socrates by saying that the Republic would not bring happiness. Socrates brings up specific points about the state and the roles of education, justice, wisdom, courage, and temperance in the state. He discusses the soul of the state and how reason must rule it. Finally, he answers Thrasymachus and Glaucon.
Socrates shows that it is more natural for a man to be just rather than unjust if his soul is healthy and each part is doing its proper work. Book V takes a position between pure theory and pinpoint detail. Here, Socrates admits he does not like to deal with detail, but is forced to. “The Republic” throughout shows the ideal. In Book V, Socrates discusses the fact that the ideal is not intended as a blue-print, but rather for comparison. He says women could possibly be equal to men, but were never given the same opportunity. In his ideal, women would have the same opportunity as men.
Also, offspring of superior parents would be separated with offspring of inferior without the mother’s knowledge. These offspring would be born in the best years of vitality of the parents. From the ideal, we can see the actual evils. Book V ends with the description of a philosopher. A philosopher has curiosity, is concerned with general principle, and has a vision of totality. In Book VI, Socrates talks about virtues of the mind. He gives a different definition of philosophers, men who take pleasures of knowing and in the soul, rather than in the body, and says rulers should be these men.
Philosophers become corrupt because of the great virtues they discover. They are discovered successful and people corrupt them for their own purposes. To train the philosopher-kings, we must teach them the highest good. This is not something see, but known. To find this value of the highest good, Socrates gives an example of the sun giving light so we can see. He also shows us the two worlds, the intelligible and the sensible. When these two worlds come together, this is the highest good.
In Book VII, Socrates discusses “The Allegory of the Cave. This starts with chained prisoners facing a wall only able to see shadows in a cave. When one prisoner is liberated and walks out of the cave, he will be blinded from the light at first. Eventually however, he will first look at shadows and reflections. Then, he will look at objects themselves. Third, he will look at the stars and the moon. Finally, after a long time he will look at the sun. When the liberated prisoner goes back down to the cave, he is blinded by darkness and the other prisoner say they would not want to be set free to the light.
This is the journey of a philosopher into truth, being the sun. He goes back to talk about the ruler and says the ruler should know mathematics, geometry, astronomy, and musical harmony. He finally says they should be exposed to the widest range of experience. In Book VIII, Socrates describes his theory of history. He says that whatever happened and happens to the state happened and happens to the individual. He says that what exists now is changing and it is not real because it is changing. Socrates also discusses the false forms of government. These being timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny.
A timocracy comes from a deterioration of a Republic and a division in power structure. A timocratic man would be self-assertive thirsty for honors. An oligarchy comes from a deterioration of a timocracy and the accumulation of wealth. An oligarchic man would be money-hungry and would measure everything in terms of profit. A democracy comes from a deterioration of an oligarchy and the loss of money of men who must create a society without political role. It is charming with variety and chaos. The democratic man would have freedom and style confused with disorder and arrogance.
A tyranny comes from the deterioration of a democracy and is extreme pursuit of pleasure and freedom from restraint. It begins with selection of a tyrant and ends in slavery. Book IX is reserved to describe the tyrannical man. A tyrannical man has madness governing his soul and cannot control his appetites. He does evils on others, yet they are nothing to the evils he is doing to himself. Since the tyrannical state is enslaved by a miserable tyrant, That tyrant is enslaved himself. The tyrant is removed from pleasure because he is removed from reality and a philosopher-king is closest to these pleasures.
Socrates brings up a point that Thrasymachus made in the beginning that the best kind of life is to practice injustice, yet to appear to be just. Socrates argues this point by concluding that the best kind of life preserves health and harmony of the soul and injustice does not do this. In Book X, Socrates discusses imitation, criticism of the arts, rewards and the after-life. He says that imitation is the lowest form of creation and far from reality. Therefore, poetry is unreal and it is not only an imitation, but an imitation of an imitation.
Socrates then discusses the rewards for justice, which would be a healthy and true soul. However, these rewards must not be sought for any reason. A man must be just because he chooses to be. Book X and the Republic end with the Myth of Er. It starts with judges of the afterlife and openings going to earth and heaven. The just were told to go to heaven by the opening on the left and the unjust down to an opening on the right. Then, there were other paths leading to a purgatory where men worked off their wrongs. These souls were offered new lives. The souls then drank from the River of Forgetfulness.
Those who were not wise drank more than they had to, so that they would be less knowledgeable in their new lives. Odysseus, a wise man chose the life of a simple peasant for his next life. Er experienced all this after he died and came back to life to tell about it. Another one of Plato’s works is “Gorgias. ” The theme of “Gorgias” is the justification of a way of life. Besides the type of arguments, “Gorgias” differs from “The Republic” in that opposers of Socrates argue more fiercely. The dialogue includes Socrates arguing one point and Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles to argue against him.
Gorgias is a famous teacher of oratory. He says this is an art. The art leads to power. Gorgias teaches an orator does not need knowledge for success, he just needs to be able to convince. He says he does not teach moral values, he teaches the art of persuasion. Socrates argues by saying that since this is an art that does not involve knowledge, it follows that it is an art in which people who know nothing persuade people who know less. Moral values are used because people must persuade that so-and-so is the right policy. However, the teacher does not teach these values and a deeper knowledge is needed.
Polus says that oratory is not fake because the orator’s power is real and great. He says we should admire a man who can so sway a crowd that he has absolute power and can kill anybody (H-I-T-L-E-R). Socrates says that a man like this should be rather pitied than admired. This tyrant has committed an injustice. Socrates says that if smooth talk enables to orator to get away with anything, then he himself is injuring his oratory and denying himself a cure. Callicles presents the most powerful argument against Socrates. This is probably because he has experience behind his negative view.
He sees it as a law of nature that the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must. He is against the mortality of the weak, not against morality. The conqueror acts in accordance with nature, therefore he is just. Socrates argues by saying that in order for any art to be practiced properly, there must be right and wrong procedures. Oratory has no standards and does not use intelligence. Intelligence indicates the kind of life that is best and most natural, so it indicates the just. A third of Plato’s works is “Meno. ” The dialogue “Meno” somewhat continues with the arguments brought about in Gorgias.
It deals with the question of whther or not virtue can be taught. “Meno” once again has Socrates arguing, but this time it is against Meno. Meno starts off by defining this virtue or goodness the dialogue includes. He says that goodness is the wanting of things that involve honor, and the power to get them. Socrates argues that that would mean a man could knowingly desire evil and that if we draw out the definition to what it implies, it destroys itself. Meno contends this point by saying we cannot inquire because if something is known, it does not need to be questioned.
To argue this point, Socrates questions Meno’s slave who has never studied mathematics. He asks the boy how he could double the area of a square. The boy says to double the area of each side. However, this would be four times the area. He has the slave boy draw it out and he realizes if he draws a new square out of the diagonal of the old, the area of the new square will be twice as much as the old. The point of this is that the boy did not have this knowledge before the experiment and so must have got it from within himself. Socrates ends the dialogue by redefining virtue.
He says only if virtue is knowledge can it be taught. Only knowledge can be gained from oneself. The act that is proper, but done by habit is not virtuous. Therefore, virtues can be turned into evils and virtue and knowledge are part of each other. Finally, a fourth of Plato’s works is “The Apology. ” “The Apology” deals with Socrates’ trial. It contains three parts : the charges, the defense, and the judgment. Socrates’ defense consists of showing how the prejudices against him have arisen and how he has the highest possible justification for the life that he has led.
Socrates is accused of corrupting the young, of disbelieving in the gods of the state, and of introducing new deities. However, the real charge of accusers is that Socrates and intellectuals like him were the cause of the loss of the Athenian war in 404 BC. Also, Socrates is held responsible for wrongs of people who followed him. The defense of Socrates was about how they always were against him and always questioned him. An oracle once told Socrates that he is wisest among men. However, Socrates knew how ignorant he was and set out to prove the oracle wrong.
He found nobody smarter than he and offended many with this search. He had the idea that God gave him the mission to search into himself and others. Because God had given him this mission, he would not change his ways. A court of 500 who are judges of fact and law decided the judgment of Socrates. The judgment was 280 to 220 against Socrates. It was then time to make a penalty. Socrates refused imprisonment or exile because he had done no wrong. When others would be pleading for mercy, Socrates was saying where he should be put to death.
This all would be avoided if Socrates would change his way of life and stop examining. For Socrates however, “The unexamined life is not worth living. ” As a conclusion for my report, I would like to talk about the impact that Plato’s works have had on us today. They show his philosophy, which is still meaningful for us. They show his ideas, which relate to how we think consciously and subconsciously. Even after I read his works, I was shocked and amazed how much these works could change my view of philosophy and politics and all and all my view of life.