A Brief Biography• Plato was born around the year 428 BCE in Athens. Platos birth name was Aristocles, and he gained the nickname Platon, meaning broad, because of his broad build. His family had a history in politics, and Plato was destined to a life in keeping with this history.
According to Aristotle, Plato developed the foundations of his metaphysics and epistemology by studying the doctrines of Cratylus, and the work of Pythagoras andParmenides. When Plato met Socrates, however, he had met his definitive teacher. As Socrates’sdisciple, Plato adopted his philosophy and style of debate, and directed his studies toward thequestion of virtue and the formation of a noble character.
Plato was in military service from 409BC to 404 BC. When thePeloponnesian War ended in 404 BChe joined the Athenian oligarchy ofthe Thirty Tyrants, one of whoseleaders was his uncle Charmides. Theviolence of this group quicklyprompted Plato to leave it. In 403 BC,when democracy was restored inAthens, he had hopes of pursuing hisoriginal goal of a political career.Socrates execution in 399 BC had aprofound effect on Plato, and wasperhaps the final event that wouldconvince him to leave Athenianpolitics forever.
After 399 BC Plato began to write extensively. The order in which he wrote hismajor texts is also uncertain. However, most scholars agree to divide Platosmajor work into three distinct groups. The first of these is known as theSocratic Dialogues because of how close he stays to Socrates teachings.The period from 387 to 361 BC is often called Platos "middle" or transitionalperiod. The major difference between these texts and his earlier works is thathe begins to establish his own voice in philosophy. Platos most influentialwork, The Republic, is also a part of his middle dialogues. It is a discussion ofthe virtues of justice, courage, wisdom, and moderation, of the individual andin society. It works with the central question of how to live a good life, askingwhat an ideal State would be like, and what defines a just individual. Thedialogue finishes by reviewing various forms of government and describing theideal state, where only philosophers are fit to rule. The Republic covers almostevery aspect of Platos thought.
Plato founded a school of learning which he called the Academy.Platos school is often described at the first European university. Itscurriculum offered subjects including astronomy, biology,mathematics, political theory, and philosophy. Plato hoped theAcademy would provide a place where thinkers could work towardbetter government in the Grecian cities. He would preside over theAcademy until his death.
It was around 365 BCthis time that Platosfamous pupil Aristotlebegan to study at theAcademy. In 347 Platodied, leaving theAcademy to his sistersson Speusippus. TheAcademy remained amodel for institutions ofhigher learning until itwas closed, in 529 CE, bythe Emperor Justinian.
Rhetorical StrategiesAllegory: a story in which the characters and situations actually represent people and characters in another context.Dialogue: Asking questions that require simple answers. Slowly, the questioning proceeds to elucidate the answers to complex issues.ClaritySimplicityDirectness
IN GROUPS, DISCUSS“THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE” FROM PLATO’S REPUBLIC
THE TASK In groups, draw a picture of Plato’s Cave. Label the significant aspects of the cave. See pages 445-46
1. Describe how the people in the cave are situated in Platos parable. Why cant they move their legs or necks to take a look around? What is the only thing they are capable of seeing? What is their only source of light?2. What do these prisoners trapped in the cave believe is real?3. How does the prisoner react when he first sees sunlight? Why?
4. What are the stages of the liberated prisoners experience outside the cave?5. What is the response of the prisoners to the news of the man who has escaped about the world outside? Why?6. Compare the perspective of the freed prisoner with the cave prisoners.
QUESTIONSWhat is the How does the allegoryrelationship between of the prisoners in theSocrates and cave watchingGlaucon? Are they shadows on a wallequal in intellectual relate to us today?authority? Are the What shadows do weconcerned with the see, and how do theysame issues? distort our sense of what is real?
QUESTIONS Are we prisoners in If Plato is right that the same sense that the material world is Plato’s characters an illusion, how are? would too great a reliance on materialism affect ethical decisions?
QUESTIONS What ethical In paragraph 49, Plato questions are states that the virtue of raised by wisdom “contains a divine element.” What is Plato’s a divine element? What Allegory? does this statement seem to mean? Do you agree with Plato?
QUESTIONS What distinction What does Plato’s does Plato make allegory of the cave between the public tell us about how we and the private? recognize the world? Would you make the same distinctions (see paras. 53-55)?
QUESTIONSAccording to the What does the allegoryallegory, how do cave suggests about theprisoners get free? process ofWhat does this suggest enlightenment orabout intellectual education?freedom?
According to The Allegory of the Cave, what is the main task of the philosopher? Who are the “guardians” or philosopher-kings? Why should philosopher-kings rule? Do you agree?
OPTIONS: ESSAY # 4 PAGES 454-55SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING 1-6
HOMEWORK• Read A World of Ideas: • Virginia Woolf "Shakespeare’s Sister" (761-776) )• Post #31 Questions (TBD) for Critical Reading: (page 776)• Post #32 PASS