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Plato
Born 427 BCE
Died 347 BCE

"Everything Is Becoming, Nothing Is"

Early Life
• Born into a wealthy Athenian family.
• Deeply influenced by his teacher Socrates; his execution was a traumatic experience for Plato.
• Became disillusioned because he thought Socrates was the best, wisest, and most just of all men.
• Believed it was an example of the conflict between what society is and the true or ideal society.

Plato’s Dialogues
• Plato created a series of philosophical dialogues that have Socrates quizzing his interlocutors about basic concepts of morals and politics.
• Did this for two reasons:
• Defiance – reasserting the teachings of Socrates in spite of them having been officially condemned.
• Rehabilitation – restore his beloved mentor’s reputation – not the corruptor of youth but their most valued teacher.

Views on Human Nature
• Plato’s view of human nature has influenced all other philosophical views.
• He is also considered the first philosopher to develop notions of human knowledge and metaphysics.

Plato’s Theory of Forms or Ideas
When Socrates asked: what is beauty or courage? He was trying to construct a theory of knowledge:
No such thing as reliable knowledge in this ever changing world that is presented to our senses.
The objects of true knowledge have a universal existence and inhabit another world:
Abstract, outside of time / space
Can only be accessed by the intellect.
Never change.
Knowledge of these "Forms" is true knowledge.
He was not trying to pin down the definition, but trying to discover the nature of some abstract entity that actually existed.
Example:
Individual acts of courage partake of the timeless essence of true courage –the indestructible ideal with its own existence.
Another
Example:
Gulliver
is a cat.
Hoover is a cat.
Kelloggs is a cat.
Fatty is a cat.
If they are all different animals, what are we saying about them?
We are saying that they have something in common, a "catness", that they all share. They partake of the "Form" of "Cat."
What does Gulliver refer to? We would point to him.
What does "cat" refer to? Where would we point? If we point to Gulliver or Hoover, would that make it clear? We might be indicating that they all had tails or whiskers or said "meow."
Must do more that simply point to these various particular things.
Imperfect examples of things that fall into general classifications.
NOT classifications themselves.
Distinguish between changing physical objects we perceive with our senses and the unchanging ideals we know with our minds.
Generalized theory across the whole of reality – everything in this world, without exception, is an ephemeral, decaying copy of something whose ideal form has a permanent and indestructible existence outside space and time.

Another Example
We use our minds to discover unchanging truths about perfect lines or circles.
However, nothing in the material world is perfectly straight or circular.
They are imperfect replicas of the perfect ideals we contemplate in geometry.

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How Do We Acquire Our Knowledge of the Perfect Ideals?
If we can’t see them and they do not exist in the visible world, how do we know about them?
We must have acquired this knowledge in a previous life.
To Plato, this proved that we have souls, and that our souls must be immortal.
Plato’s view of human nature is a direct consequence of his Theory of Forms.

The Three Parts of Our Souls
Plato thought it imperative that we care for our souls, which he believed had three parts:
Reason – our ability to reason, argue, deliberate.
Emotions – spirited element; our strength of will, whether we are courageous or cowardly.
Appetite –our desires and passions (food, water, sex)

The Key to Happiness and Virtue
If the three parts were functioning harmoniously, we would be happy and virtuous.
We had to ensure that the three parts were subordinated to one another.
Reason rules emotion and desires.
Emotion and desires must be trained to be led.
Unhappiness is when the three parts are constantly fighting.

Plato’s Republic
It is concerned with the question of justice: What is a just individual, a just state?
The idea of the three part soul is also repeated here, in the outline for his ideal city - state.
The best ruler would be, someone who has crawled out of the "cave" and made the journey upward to the light.
Someone who has knowledge of the good, has a self-disciplined soul and has contemplated true being.
Someone who would not work for their own advantage.
This would be a philosopher – they would be known as "Philosopher - Kings"

Plato and Christianity
The idea of separating reality into two realms had a monumental effect upon Christianity.
Visible, Material World – nothing lasts, nothing stays the same, everything is imperfect, decays.
Invisible, Immaterial World – outside space, not accessible to our senses, perfect order; timeless, unchanging reality.
Our world offers us only a brief and unsatisfactory glimpse of this other world.
Yet it is real reality – because it is stable and unshakable – it is it is not in the process of sliding into something else.
Translates into the human form as well:
A part of us that can be seen.
imperfect and highly perishable.
Underlying is a part that cannot be seen but is indestructible and unchanging.
Our soul - of which our minds are capable of achieving awareness.
View is familiar to Christians because the school of philosophy that was dominant in the Hellenistic world in which Christianity developed was Platonism.
New Testament was written in Greek.
Many early Christian thinkers were profoundly concerned with reconciling the revelations of their religion with Plato’s main doctrines.
Most important of these doctrines became absorbed into orthodox Christian thinking.
There was a time when it was quite common for people to refer to Socrates and Plato as "Christians before Christ".
Many Christians seriously believed that the historic mission of those Greek thinkers had been to prepare the theoretical foundations for some important aspects of Christianity.