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       In Plato’s early dialogues, we can see Socrates
as the main figure, puzzling his interlocutors with his questions. For example,
in the Laches, Socrates is seeking
for the essence of courage disembodied from any particular context. In the Euthyphyro, he was looking for a general
standard which makes particular things pious. And in the Meno, there was the same search for an overarching definition, this
time for virtue. What is common to all of these dialogues is that we can see
the tension between universality and particularity in the context of
definitions and instances, essences and attributes. All of the early dialogues
we read in the beginnings of the semester in a sense give hints about Plato’s
understanding of philosophy and philosopher. In Plato’s eyes, Socrates was a
philosopher. He was after true nature of things. His aim was discovering the
fixed concepts not as pure speculation but as a view to lead a good life. He
was trying to reach universal, unchanging definitions of things. In a sense; he
was trying to understand things for themselves, what something really is. And
certainly, knowledge of something was different from its attributes and
instances. For this reason, Socrates was a philosopher for Plato. He was
critical in his discussions, he was searching for truth by careful
examinations. This whole process was philosophical for Plato. And, it seems
like philosophical wisdom comes from the idea of universality, that is,
desiring and searching for universal truths. In this sense, we can see the
hints of Plato’s understanding of philosophy and philosopher in his early
dialogues. Although his theory of forms is not developed in a systematic manner
in Socrates’ teachings yet, I think that his ideas about philosophy and
philosopher is somehow present in those dialogues. At least, we can see the
seeds being sowed in Plato’s mind. Plato develops his philosophy and the role
of philosopher with his theory of forms in a rigorous matter in the Republic later.

     In the Republic, I think that Plato gives a kind of defense of philosophy.
He shows why philosophy is crucial to the life of a good city. In this sense,
as I said before, we can see in the Republic
that there is a one form of human excellence, which is philosophical life. And
a good state, which is ruled by philosopher kings, puts philosophical life in
the center of the city. After Socrates identifies justice in both individual
and political levels in the Book IV,
he introduces the concept of philosopher-king in the Book V, which dominates the rest of the Republic. Then, he explains what he means by “philosopher” by
making distinction between philosophers and lovers of sights and sounds. For
him, lovers of sights and sounds like beautiful sounds, colors, shapes but
their thought is unable to embrace the nature of the beautiful itself. Here, we
can see how Plato implies the Form of Beauty. He implies that lovers of sights
and sounds do not deal with forms but they deal with particular things. For
this reason, they are the lovers of opinions, not knowledge. In this way, Plato
identifies philosophers as lovers of wisdom. For him, only philosophers can
have knowledge as they love the sight of truth. Philosopher is the one who
would be able to reach the beautiful itself, different from lovers of sights
and sounds. In this sense, philosopher is the one who have access to the forms,
which are complete objects of thoughts. And given that only philosophers can
have knowledge, they are the best to grasp what is good for the city. Like someone
who knows how to navigate should steer ships and be captain, philosophers are
the ones who most fit to rule as they are guided by the truth and always pursue
it in every way. In the following lines, Plato explains how philosopher is not
mere possessor of knowledge but also the most virtuous man if it happens to
receive appropriate instruction. Then, in the final stage of construction of
the just city, Plato explains how to produce philosopher-kings among the
guardians. And it turns out that the most important thing is the study of the
Form of the Good. If someone understands the Form of the Good, then he gains
highest level of knowledge and becomes fit to be a philosopher-king. Socrates
does not say what exactly it is but gives analogy of the Sun. He says that the
Sun belongs to the visible world while the Good belongs to the intelligible
world. According to this analogy; like the sun is the source of light and
therefore visibility in the visible realm, the Good is the source of
intelligibility. Also, the sun enables us to see. In other words, sight is the
result of the light. Similarly, like the sun enables eyes to see, the Good
enables mind to know. The Good gives us capacity for knowledge. It gives truth
to the things known and power to know to the knower. Moreover, like the sun is
the source of existence in the visible world, the Good is responsible for
“coming to be” or the existence of Forms in the intelligible world. Then, Form
of the Good is responsible for all knowledge, truth and for the knowing mind.
For this reason, it seems like it is the ultimate aim of knowledge. In this
sense, this analogy implies Plato’s understanding of philosophy and shows why
should we be in a pursuit of knowledge. Plato’s second image, the divided line
analogy, makes clearer the importance of the Good by showing the order and
hierarchy of knowledge. The divided line represents four grades of knowledge
available to us. Also, it represents two types of apprehension and objects. The
bottom two segments represent our access to the visible realm while the top two
represent our access to the intelligible realm. For Plato, the lowest type of
thinking is imagination. A person in state of imagination considers images,
shadows and reflections as the most real things in the world. The next stage in
the line is belief. A person in the stage of belief thinks that sensible
particulars such as natural objects and artifacts are the most real things in
the world.

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