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Ionian Philosophy

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Ionian Philosophy

Post by Haggis on Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:18 am

Plato (428/427 BC ­ 348/347 BC), whose original name was Aristocles, was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the great trio of ancient Greeks, succeeding Socrates and preceding Aristotle­ who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Plato was also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Socrates and to have been deeply influenced by his teacher's unjust death.

Plato's brilliance as a writer and thinker can be witnessed by reading his Socratic dialogues. Some of the dialogues, letters, and other works that are ascribed to him are considered spurious. Plato is thought to have lectured at the Academy, although the pedagogical function of his dialogues, if any, is not known with certainty. They have historically been used to teach philosophy, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, and other subjects about which he wrote.

Plato influenced the work of Aristotle, Neoplatonism, Cicero, Plutarch, Stoicism, Anselm, Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz, Mill, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Gadamer and countless other western philosophers and theologians.

Plato's influences were Socrates, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Aesop, Protagoras, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Orphism.

Plato's main interests were Rhetoric, Art, Literature, Epistemology, Justice, Virtue, Politics, Education, Family and Militarism


Plato was born to an aristocratic family in Athens. His father, Ariston, was believed to have descended from the early kings of Athens. Perictione, his mother, was distantly related to the 6th-century B.C. lawmaker Solon.

When Plato was a child, his father died, and his mother married Pyrilampes, who was an associate of the statesman Pericles.

Plato's original name was Aristocles, but in his school days he received the nickname Platon (meaning "broad" ) because of his broad shoulders.

It was mostly in Pyrilampes' house that Plato was brought up. Aristotle writes that when Plato was a young man he studied under Cratylus who was a student of Heracleitus, famed for his cosmology which is based on fire being the basic material of the universe. It almost certain that Plato became friends with Socrates when he was young, for Plato's mother's brother Charmides was a close friend of Socrates.

The Peloponnesian War was fought between Athens and Sparta between 431 BC and 404 BC.

Plato was in military service from 409 BC to 404 BC but at this time he wanted a political career rather than a military one. At the end of the war he joined the oligarchy of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens set up in 404 BC, one of whose leaders being his mother's brother Charmides, but their violent acts meant that Plato quickly left.

In 403 BC there was a restoration of democracy at Athens and Plato had great hopes that he would be able to enter politics again. However, the excesses of Athenian political life seem to have persuaded him to give up political ambitions.

In particular, the execution of Socrates in 399 BC had a profound effect on him and he decided that he would have nothing further to do with politics in Athens.

Plato left Athens after Socrates had been executed and travelled in Egypt, Sicily and Italy. In Egypt he learned of a water clock and later introduced it into Greece. In Italy he learned of the work of Pythagoras and came to appreciate the value of mathematics. He studied with the disciples of Pythagoras.

Again there was a period of war and again Plato entered military service. It was claimed by later writers on Plato's life that he was decorated for bravery in battle during this period of his life. It is also thought that he began to write his dialogues at this time.

On his return to Athens Plato founded, in about 387 BC, on land which had belonged to Academos, a school of learning which being situated in the grove of Academos was called the Academy.

On his journeys he decided to devote the rest of his life to philosophy.

In 389 B.C. he founded a school in Athens. Because it was on the grounds that had once belonged to a legendary Greek called A cademus, it came to be called the Academy, and this term has been d for schools ever since. The institution often described as the first European university.

The Academy provided a comprehensive curriculum, including such subjects as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory, and philosophy.

The main purpose of the Academy was to cultivate thought to lead to a restoration of decent government in the cities of Greece.

Only two further episodes in Plato's life are recorded. He went to Syracuse in 367 BC following the death of Dionysius I who had ruled the city. Dion, the brother-in-law of Dionysius I, persuaded Plato to come to Syracuse to tutor Dionysius II, the new ruler. Plato did not expect the plan to succeed but because both Dion and Archytas of Tarentum believed in the plan then Plato agreed. Their plan was that if Dionysius II was trained in science and philosophy he would be able to prevent Carthage invading Sicily. However, Dionysius II was jealous of Dion who he forced out of Syracuse and the plan, as Plato had expected, fell apart.

Plato returned to Athens, but visited Syracuse again in 361 BC hoping to be able to bring the rivals together. He remained in Syracuse for part of 360 BC but did not achieve a political solution to the rivalry. Dion attacked Syracuse in a coup in 357, gained control, but was murdered in 354.

Like Socrates, Plato was chiefly interested in moral philosophy and despised natural philosophy (that is, science) as an inferior and unworthy sort of knowledge.

To Plato, knowledge had no practical use, it existed for the abstract good of the soul. At the heart of Plato's philosophy is his theory of Forms, or Ideas. Ultimately, his view of knowledge, his ethical theory, his psychology, his concept of the state, and his perspective on art must be understood in terms of this theory.


"Platonism" is a term coined by scholars to refer to the intellectual consequences of denying, as Socrates often does, the reality of the material world. In several dialogues, most notably the Republic, Socrates inverts the common man's intuition about what is knowable and what is real. While most people take the objects of their senses to be real if anything is, Socrates is contemptuous of people who think that something has to be graspable in the hands to be real. In the Theaetetus, he says such people are "eu a-mousoi", an expression that means literally, "happily without the muses" (Theaetetus 156a). In other words, such people live without the divine inspiration that gives him, and people like him, access to higher insights about reality.

Socrates's idea that reality is unavailable to those who use their senses is what puts him at odds with the common man, and with common sense. Socrates says that he who sees with his eyes is blind, and this idea is most famously captured in his allegory of the cave, and more explicitly in his description of the divided line. The allegory of the cave (begins Republic 7.514a) is a paradoxical analogy wherein Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible ("noeton") and that the visible world ("(h)oraton") is the least knowable, and the most obscure. (This is exactly the opposite of what Socrates says to Euthyphro in the soothsayer's namesake dialogue. There, Socrates tells Euthyphro that people can agree on matters of logic and science, and are divided on moral matters, which are not so easily verifiable.)

Socrates says in the Republic that people who take the sun-lit world of the senses to be good and real are living pitifully in a den of evil and ignorance. Socrates admits that few climb out of the den, or cave of ignorance, and those who do not only have a terrible struggle to attain the heights, but when they go back down for a visit or to help other people up, they find themselves objects of scorn and ridicule.

According to Socrates, physical objects and physical events are "shadows" of their ideal or perfect forms, and exist only to the extent that they instantiate the perfect versions of themselves. Just as shadows are temporary, inconsequential epiphenomena produced by physical objects, physical objects are themselves fleeting phenomena caused by more substantial causes, the ideals of which they are mere instances. For example, Socrates thinks that perfect justice exists (although it is not clear where) and his own trial would be a cheap copy of it.

The allegory of the cave (often said by scholars to represent Plato's own epistemology and metaphysics) is intimately connected to his political ideology (often said to also be Plato's own), that only people who have climbed out of the cave and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule. Socrates claims that the enlightened men of society must be forced from their divine contemplations and compelled to run the city according to their lofty insights. Thus is born the idea of the "philosopher-king", the wise person who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are wise enough to choose a good master. This is the main thesis of Socrates in the Republic, that the most wisdom the masses can muster is the wise choice of a ruler. Labelled Plato's "metaphysics" because Aristotle's musings about divine reality came after ("meta") his lecture notes on his treatise on nature ("physics"), Socrates division of reality into the warring and irreconcilable domains of the material and the spiritual has been of incalculable influence in the history of Western philosophy and religion.

Theory of Knowledge

Plato's theory of Forms and his theory of knowledge are so interrelated that they must be discussed together. Influenced by Socrates, Plato was convinced that knowledge is attainable. He was also convinced of two essential characteristics of knowledge.

First, knowledge must be certain and infallible. Second, knowledge must have as its object that which is genuinely real as contrasted with that which is an appearance only. Because that which is fully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identified the real with the ideal realm of being as opposed to the physical world of becoming. One consequence of this view was Plato's rejection of empiricism, the claim that knowledge is derived from sense experience. He thought that propositions derived from sense experience have, at most, a degree of probability. They are not certain.

Furthermore, the objects of sense experience are changeable phenomena of the physical world. Hence, objects of sense experience are not proper objects of knowledge.

Plato's own theory of knowledge is found in the Republic, particularly in his discussion of the image of the divided line and the myth of the cave. In the former, Plato distinguishes between two levels of awareness: opinion and knowledge. Claims or assertions about the physical or visible world, including both common sense observations and the propositions of science, are opinions only. Some of these opinions are well founded; some are not; but none of them counts as genuine knowledge. The higher level of awareness is knowledge, because there reason, rather than sense experience, is involved.
Reason, properly used, results in intellectual insights that are certain, and the objects of these rational insights are the abiding universals, the eternal Forms
or substances that constitute the real world.

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Re: Ionian Philosophy

Post by Illuminati on Sun Jan 01, 2012 3:18 pm

You should have your citations and references sir.^^

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