Plato’s life and philosophical thought
Plato devotes himself to philosophy due to the impossibility of engaging in politics. His life is concentrated in the period just following the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian war called the 30 tyrants. Democracy will return to power, the same democracy that will condemn Socrates.
Plato’s thought is oriented towards politics, he wants to understand how it is possible to establish a government among men. In the Renaissance era he is seen as an ethical-religious thinker, in the Middle Ages as a metaphysician. Plato travels and goes to southern Italy: three times in Syracuse and with Dionysius (tyrant) he will create an “ideal government” or in the hands of a politician – philosopher (unsuccessful attempt). He comes into contact through Achite with some Pythagorean communities.
Doctrine of ideas
Central theme of these dialogues. It arises from the need to found a universal and perfect science capable of contrasting sophist relativism. Ideas are the models of things, mental tools through which we can recognize things, but they are not simple mental representations that are the fruit of our intellect, they are figures that represent the models of reality (eidos = form / aspect; idein = to see). They are not part of the phenomenal world, they can only be seen with the mind’s eye and correspond to the Latin term species-spectare = to contemplate. They are not products of the mind, not a thought but an object that the intellect looks at. They are in another world hyperuranium and they are the real being. Ideas have a double value: – Ontological: perfect realities that represent the models / causes of natural things. – Gneosological: they are the criteria for judging things themselves. Dualism: in all the various aspects of Platonic philosophy there is always the idea of a duplicity. The perfect being of ideas and the corrupt and treacherous being of natural things. Hyperuranium is an intelligible world, the one we live in is corrupt and changing. True science is distinct from doxa (opinion) the episteme, true science, addresses ideas. The soul is immortal, the body is not. Knowledge of ideas: belief in metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, doctrine according to which the soul, before transmigrating, has contemplated the perfect examples of things. Knowledge for Plato is reminiscence or anamnesis does not derive from experience but is innate. In the Meno, Plato devotes himself to the problem of learning. In this dialogue the “victory” of the sophistical-eristic principle occurs, according to which it is not possible for man to investigate either what he knows or what he does not know, it is not possible to know beyond opinion. Anamnesis => pre-existence of the soul, so what we know are memories of previously learned knowledge. The soul is immortal and has been born many times. The skepticism of the sophists is negative because it makes man lazy, it distracts man from research, instead the theory of reminiscence makes man lively => outcome of Socratic maieutics. In the Phaedo it is the last hours of Socrates. On the day of the death of St. some disciples met and from there were born discourses that speak of death and philosophy. For Socrates, philosophy is a preparation for death, study, anamnesis leads to rediscovering that state of knowledge that tends to get lost when one incarnates. Ideas: what are they actually? What is it about? He thinks of four possible solutions. Between the natural world and hyperuranium: relationship of imitation, or a relationship of parousia or the presence of the idea in the thing, or of metessi or the participation of the thing in the idea, or of coinonia (communion). There are two types of ideas, those of value (moral ideas: courage, good, etc.) and mathematical ones (arithmetic, geometric principles (influence of the Pythagoreans). The supreme idea is that of good => compared to a sun (as the sun illuminates and makes all things be, in the same way the Good dominates all other ideas in hyperuranium).
Will there be ideas for even the vilest elements? It will not give a definitive answer. Difference in value between Socrates and Plato. Plato considers Socrates better. Passage from science to philosophy => loss of wisdom becomes research and therefore a departure from security. Experience is an opportunity for man to brush up on his ideas. For Plato there are various degrees of knowledge, certain souls have greater potential for truth because they have lingered more in the contemplation of hyperuranium. Philosophers have contemplated ideas more and are the only ones who have seen the idea of Good and they should be entrusted with the state (philosophers king).
Works of Plato
Here are other very important works by Plato: The Republic The myth of the cave, The Symposium and The Apology of Socrates
In the Phaedrus appears The myth of the winged chariot a dialogue devoted mainly to the immortality of the soul illustrates the incarnation. The soul is depicted as a chariot on which is a charioteer who rules a pair of winged horses. The soul is guided in the wake of the gods, in the region which is the seat of being, that is, of the true substance (ousia). This substance is none other than the world of ideas, described as an essence that can only be contemplated by the intellect. Each soul wants to draw what is proper to it, contemplating the truth, which it nourishes and enjoys. The two horses are in constant conflict with each other as one, the white horse, is good and purebred the other, the black horse, no: the first is a symbol of psychic energies, of fortitude and tends to remain in the world of ideas; the second is a symbol of desires and tries to push the charioteer towards the sensible world, towards the incarnation. The charioteer is a symbol of reason which has the task of restraining passions and balancing the impetus of the black horse. When it fails, the soul from heaven falls on this earth, incarnates in a body and thus loses the vision of the essences. The Phaedrus describes the concept of Platonic love, that is, a sublime love, not linked to the sexual dimension and the passionate dimension. It is a pure love, which leads knowledge towards the absolute. In Phaedrus Plato describes one of the four proofs he gives of the immortality of the soul, arguments that testify to the influence of the Pythagoreans. 1-proof of the opposites: I recall the philosophy of Heraclitus, the idea of opposites that continuously feeds life causes everything to die in the phenomenon we call death but in reality life springs from death thinking that only the body is involved in this mechanism and the soul is excluded from it with death only the life of the body ends while for the soul it is a liberation. 2-proof of reminiscence: (a bit that of the Meno). The question arises of when the ideas were fixed. So the soul is maintained after the death of the body itself. The soul is superior to the body. 3- proof of the analogy of the soul with ideas: everything that is visible to the physical eye is subject to decay, while ideas, the object of an intellectual vision, are perfect, immutable, immortal. The soul being a participant in the nature of ideas is immortal. 4- proof that he speaks of souls as a principle of vitality: every existing thing finds its life principle in the soul. If the soul is the principle of vitality it cannot translate into its opposite, then the idea of the death of the soul would mean not accepting life.
Another topic that is described is the concept of platonic love, that is, a sublime love, not linked to the sexual dimension and the passionate dimension. It is a pure love that leads knowledge towards the absolute.
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