Socrates and Plato


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A historical, cultural, and social context for reading Plato's "Allegory of the Cave."

Socrates and Plato

  1. 1. The Art of Masterly Interrogation Socrates and Plato “ Wisdom begins in wonder”
  2. 2. Socrates (470 B.C.E.-399 B.C.E.) Founder of Moral Philosophy <ul><li>Athenian by birth </li></ul><ul><li>Lived through Athens’ “Golden Age” </li></ul><ul><li>Studied the “pre-Socratic philosophers” </li></ul><ul><li>Desired knowing how to conduct oneself </li></ul><ul><li>Was quite charismatic and charming </li></ul><ul><li>Loved by the youth </li></ul>
  3. 3. “ The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing ” <ul><li>Traveled around Athens raising questions to anybody who would listen and dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>Challenged those who claimed to know the answers: Sophists </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People paid to teach folks how to politic, not seek the Truth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Put them through a series of questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Under interrogation, the original answer was proven wrong… this angered sophists and politicians </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Socrates never had a definitive answer himself… he wouldn’t want one </li></ul>
  4. 4. “ What is Justice?” <ul><li>Didn’t want a mere verbal definition </li></ul><ul><li>We apply the word “just” to many things: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sets of arrangements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All of these uses have a common property they are hiding: a Form that exists beyond our world </li></ul><ul><li>Everything “just” possesses Its essence </li></ul><ul><li>His dialogues attempted to find the Real in our Unreal World </li></ul>
  5. 5. Famous or Infamous? <ul><li>Socrates’ style of dialogue made him a disruptive and subversive influence </li></ul><ul><li>He exposed the ignorance of those in power </li></ul><ul><li>He was the butt of a joke in Aristophanes’ play, The Clouds (423 B.C.E.) </li></ul><ul><li>He became a well-known </li></ul><ul><li>public figure </li></ul>
  6. 6. Socrates’ Core Beliefs <ul><li>Socrates believed that a man who preserves his integrity will never come to any real, long-term harm </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A rich person can become poor, a star athlete crippled, and a poor man king… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real personal catastrophe consists in corruption of the soul </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We should pity the perpetrator of injustice, not the victim of injustice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Stoics made Socrates a hero as a result </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Socrates’ Core Beliefs <ul><li>No one really knowingly does wrong </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If you were to truly know the Form of your actions as being wrong, you couldn’t do them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you do commit a wrong action, it’s because you didn’t really understand </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Virtue is a matter of knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If we can know the answer to a question like “What is Justice?”, we will know how to behave justly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge and the aspiration of virtue are the same thing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live ” </li></ul>
  8. 8. “ Know Thyself” <ul><li>Ultimately, Socrates taught the priority of personal integrity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A person’s duty to himself and no one else: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Not God, your parents, or the Law </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When you can recognize this, you become free of the Unreal world around you; you become your own authority </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. “ Tell me How You Die, and I’ll Tell You How You Lived” ~Octavio Paz <ul><li>Socrates’ powerful enemies arrested him for his ideas and “corrupting the youth” </li></ul><ul><li>He was sentenced to death by poisoning with hemlock </li></ul>
  10. 10. Socrates’ Legacy <ul><li>Established the principle that everything must be open to question </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is no black and white answer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Answers are also open to question </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The only constant is Death </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Established the Socratic Dialectic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seeking Truth through Q and A </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gets people to re-examine what they think they know </li></ul></ul><ul><li>He never wrote a thing he taught… but one student did: </li></ul>
  11. 11. Plato (428 B.C.E.-347 B.C.E.) <ul><li>A pupil of Socrates who wrote down what his teacher said </li></ul><ul><li>Lived half a century after his teacher was executed </li></ul><ul><li>Was 31 when Socrates died </li></ul><ul><li>He was in the courtroom for the whole trial </li></ul><ul><li>These events traumatized him </li></ul>
  12. 12. Homage to His Teacher <ul><li>Plato circulated a series of philosophical dialogues with Socrates as protagonist </li></ul><ul><li>The Hero quizzes his interlocutors, tripping them up with questions </li></ul><ul><li>Plato had two reasons to write these dialogues: </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>To defiantly reassert the teachings of Socrates in spite of them having been condemned by the government </li></ul><ul><li>To rehabilitate his beloved mentor’s reputation from “Corruptor of Youth” to “Valuable Teacher” of young men </li></ul>
  14. 14. Plato’s Works <ul><li>By the time he died at age 81, Plato had written: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Two dozen dialogues, between 20-300 pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>His most famous include: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Republic , which deals with the nature of Justice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Symposium , which deals with the nature of Love </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The trial and death of Socrates can be read in: Crito, Apology, and Phaedo </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Socrates’ Plato and Plato’s Socrates…What?! <ul><li>Scholars agree that the ideas in Plato’s dialogues changed over time: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Early works raise subjects championed by historical Socrates: What Plato heard his teacher say </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Later works were mostly Plato’s own ideas placed in the character Socrates’ mouth… </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. The First Professor <ul><li>Plato establi shed </li></ul><ul><li>the prototype of </li></ul><ul><li>the college: </li></ul><ul><li>the “Academy ” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This was </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>simply the </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>name of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>his house </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Ideal Existence <ul><li>Plato is best known for his theory of Forms or Ideas (the same thing) </li></ul><ul><li>To ask “What is Beauty?” is not to find a definition, but to discover the nature of an abstract entity whose existence we see in everyday objects/actions… </li></ul><ul><li>… I know… Confusing… </li></ul><ul><li>… hang in there… </li></ul>
  18. 18. Consider This: <ul><li>The individual beautiful objects in our everyday world will eventually wear away. They are fleeting </li></ul><ul><li>But these objects share in the timeless essence of true beauty </li></ul><ul><li>This essence or Form is indestructible, with an existence outside of time and space </li></ul><ul><li>Everything in this world of ours is a decaying and ephemeral copy of an eternal and ideal Form : Ideas, objects, people, actions, you name it </li></ul>Venus de Milo ( circa 200 B.C.E) “ Everything is becoming, nothing is ”
  19. 19. The World is Divided in Two <ul><li>There is the visible world… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The world our five senses capture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where nothing lasts and nothing stays. Space and time exist here </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The World of Becoming/ the Unreal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Then there is the invisible world </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a world outside space and time, beyond the senses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A world only captured by the intellect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A permanent and perfect world of Form </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The World of Being/the Real </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Just Like Humans <ul><li>There is a part of us that people see, hear, taste, touch, smell </li></ul><ul><li>Then there is the part of us not seen. The one only sensitive to those who can see our souls </li></ul><ul><li>The soul is our permanent Form </li></ul><ul><li>In order to see the soul in others and ourselves, we got to learn to see beyond the senses and with the intellect </li></ul>
  21. 21. What do You Think Plato’s Thoughts Were on Art?
  22. 22. Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, Hearing Art, Ads, Media
  23. 23. The Allegory of “ There will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers.”