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The Philosopher-King. Ch6: Plato (427-348 B.C.E). Query. P125: How can an ignorant voter “choose” anything? Remember, voting requirements have been used to prevent women and people of certain ethnic groups from voting

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the philosopher king

The Philosopher-King

Ch6: Plato (427-348 B.C.E)

  • P125: How can an ignorant voter “choose” anything? Remember, voting requirements have been used to prevent women and people of certain ethnic groups from voting
  • P133: How might Plato answer the claim that if they are so similar that they look identical to humans. Identical means “indistinguishable”
plato s life and work
Plato’s Life and Work
  • Plato himself is our chief source of info.
  • We still have all the works attributed to him by ancient scholars: most important of these are philosophical dialogues
    • The Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Theaetetus, Timaeus, Gorgias, Protagoras, Meno, and the Republic
    • + summaries and analysis of some of Plato’s doctrines
      • Left by Aristotle, his greatest student
    • More bio. Info than any other ancient philosopher
      • Much from Diogenes Läerius’ Life of Plato
    • 13 letters: controversial over authenticity
  • Republic: read by more people than any other work of Western philosophy
    • Most impressive and important work
    • Presents overall philosophy in a dramatic, organized, and brilliant form
the decline of the aristocracy
The Decline of the Aristocracy
  • Plato = nickname for Aristocles, son of one of the oldest and most elite Athenian family
    • Mother side traces back to Solon, the lawgiver
    • Father traces ancestry back to ancient Kings of Athens and even further back to Poseidon
  • Aristocles = “best, most renowned”
  • Is said to have done well at everything: music, logic, debate, math, poetry
  • Attractive, a wrestler, won a prize for bravery in battle
  • Plato = platoon = broad, wide
    • He had wide shoulders in one story; wide forehead in another
  • Born 2 yrs. After Pericles died; Athens in 20-yr war with Sparta
    • State of turmoil (like US during Vietnam) & surrendered in 404BC
decline cont
Decline (cont.)
  • Spartans set up new gov’t by supporting the Thirty
    • Plato’s family members were in this group
    • Overthrew democracy
    • The same group that Socrates resisted when he was ordered to condemn & execute Leon of Salamis in violation of the constitution
    • Failed to restore rule by an elite based on bloodlines & reign lasted 8 months before democracy was restored
  • It was the restored democracy that tried and executed Socrates
    • Plato was in his early 20’s & these events impacted him
    • Plato was disgusted with those who abused power & persecuted Socrates
  • Nobles (Thirty) were disturbed by changes due to war: loss of elitist privileges that accompany increased democracy, breakdown of traditions, Sophists’ use of debaters’ tricks to sway the mob, emerging business class created power dependent on money & aggressivness
plato s disillusionment
Plato’s Disillusionment
  • Was discouraged by both the mob and the elite
    • Mob = represented by the jury at Socrates’ trial = irrational and dangerous
    • Elite = represented by behavior of the Thirty = cruel, self-centered, and greedy
  • Saw neither the aristocracy nor the common citizenry capable of superior rule
  • Concluded that most people are unfit to make decisions that would result in a just society due to lack of wisdom and self-restraint
  • Believe that most make emotional responses based on desire and sentiment, rather than on rational considerations stemming from an objective view of what is genuinely good for the individual society
    • Example: Socrates’ trial and death shows what happened when justice is reduced to a majority vote.
plato s disillusionment cont
Plato’s Disillusionment (cont)

After the Revolt of the Thirty and Socrates’ death, Plato left Athens and wandered for nearly 12 yrs.

  • Studied w/ Euclid (pioneer of geometry) and probably the hedonist Aristippus
  • He seems to also have gone to Egypt
  • Studied math & mysticism, both influenced his philosophy
  • Studied Pythagorean philosophy and emphasis on mathematics as the basis of all things
plato s epistemology
Plato’s Epistemology
  • Believed that a corrupt state produces corrupt citizens
  • Tried to develop a theory that could refute sophistic skepticism and moral relativism
    • Hope to identify/articulate the difference between mere opinion and genuine knowledge
      • Then it would be possible to identify the structure of an ideal state based on knowledge and truth—rather than the mere appearance of truth and personal whim
    • Could not avoid the challenge of sophistic skepticism nor ignore philosophy’s reputation for generating ludicrous doctrines that contradicted each other
  • First he must tackle the problem of knowledge
    • See examples of conflicting opinions of the Presocratics that led to philosophical confusion and ethical abuses in the hands of extreme Sophists
  • His success: exposure of error & inconsistency; less so in positive knowledge
  • Conclusion: though Presocratics, Sophists, and Socrates all made distinction between appearance and reality, the exact nature of reality and clear rational criteria for distinguishing reality from appearance had eluded them.
knowledge and being
Knowledge and Being
  • In order to refute the sophistic assault, fundamental issues such as these must be clarified
    • The relation between appearance and reality
    • The problem of “the one and the many”
    • The nature of change
  • Reasoned that Sophists can’t find truth because they were only concerned with the HERACLITEAN world of sensibles (ever changing perception)
  • To Plato, the essence of knowledge is unchanging
    • What is true is always true; therefore, whatever is relative and always changing cannot be true
    • Truth/knowledge in another realm of reality: the level of being Parmenides tried to characterize
    • What is eternal is real; what changes is only appearance
    • We can have knowledge of what is eternal (being), of appearances (becoming) there can be only opinions
the theory of forms
The Theory of Forms
  • Plato’s metaphysics, being consists of timeless essences/entities called Forms
  • Platonic Forms: independently existing, nonspatial, nontemporal “somethings” (‘kinds,” “types,” or “sorts”) known only through thought and that cannot be known through the senses; independently existing objects of thought; that which makes a particular thing uniquely and essentially what it is.
    • Form = basic structure/essence
  • What Plato meant by form is heatedly debated because he does not have a well worked out theory of Forms
  • It is the basis for his theory of an ideal state
what are forms
What Are Forms?
  • Form = eidos (idea)
    • Some translated eidos are archetype or essence
  • To him, each Form exits__pure and unchanging__regardless of continuous shifts in human opinions
    • Independent of human consciousness
      • Existed before any perceivers (animals or people)
      • Thus “roundness” is not a property that depends on human minds for existence; roundness is unchanging
    • Universal types that exist outside of space and time
  • Truths about mathematical objects exist whether we know them or not; Plato thinks the same is true for moral and aesthetic facts
forms cont
Forms (cont)

Are not physical objects; more like abstract objects which is more real than concrete physical objects

  • Example of forms: geometrical, mathematical, logical relations, virtues, sensible properties (roundness, beauty, redness)
    • Infinite number of particular things that “share” some element of redness
    • Round glass beads may look uneven or minutely pitted under the microscope
    • 2 “identical” glass beads would have to contain exactly the same silica molecules, atoms, quarks, neutrinos, and in the same place at exactly the same time = impossible
      • It would be one bead .
why plato needed the forms
Why Plato Needed the Forms
  • Wanted the theory of Forms to provide a rational explanation of how knowledge is possible.
    • Forms = his bold answer to Sophists’ assault on knowledge and to their relativistic rejection of universal truths
  • Needed to offer more than faith in the existence of absolutes, more than authoritarian and dogmatic pronouncements
    • Or he will fail to meet the challenge of relativism
  • His question bears on important epistemological question: Is everything a matter of opinion? If not…
    • Is there any way to show that knowledge is possible?
    • Is there any way those of us who are not wise or enlightened can identify those who are? If answer to 2 is no
      • Then were at the mercy of unverifiable beliefs, rule by force, rhetoric, and seduction
    • If one opinion is ultimately as good as any other, then one form of gov’t is no better than any other, and there is no pint in seeking truth or wisdom
    • If knowledge is possible, and if some opinions really are better than others, how can we justify democracy, a form of government that treats each citizen’s opinion as equal
  • Plato struggled to refute relativism and thereby preserve the distinction between knowledege and opinion
    • Hoped to justify and preserve real (objective) distinctions between right and wrong, true and false, better and worse.
  • P134 Is it possible to know that no one does know? How do you know that you don’t know?
  • P143: Do you think the Allegory of the Cave accurately expresses the way we experience knowledge? What level are you on?
    • Have you escaped the Cave and seen the Good?
knowledge and opinion
Knowledge and Opinion
  • To Plato, knowledge = fixed, absolutely and eternally true (correct); opinions= changeable and “unanchored”
  • Scientific knowledge of particulars is impossible
    • Science consists of necessary and universal truths about the objects (forms) that science studies
  • In Plato’s metaphysics, the level of change is the level of growth and decay, life and death__becoming.
what happens when we disagree
What Happens When We Disagree?
  • Michael believes 2x3=4
    • We can say this is false belief because it’s not a matter of opinion
  • Patricia believes 2x3=6 because her family said so
  • Emma believes 2x3=6 because her teacher said so
  • Emma & Patricia (true belief) does not know anymore than Michael does.
    • Their answers are still just beliefs (opinions)
  • All three lack sufficient understanding to make an informed determination; they don’t know what it is.
  • Like those 3, we’re at the mercy of uninformed preference, “unanchored” and act based on habit, tradition, personal preference, and impulse
    • He warns us repeatedly in the Republic
    • Warns against even true opinion without grounding knowledge
the divided line p137
The Divided Line p137

Divided Line

  • shows that both knowledge and opinion deal with Forms
  • Illustrates the relationship of knowledge to opinion, reality to appearance, metaphysics to epistemology, and the world of being to the world becoming.
  • Segments A,B,C,&D represents decreasing degrees of truth
    • A =pure intelligence, understanding, highest Form
    • B= reasoning (mathematic & deductive) = Human (lower) Form
    • C= belief, common opinions about physical objects, morals, politics, practical affairs (Mother Theresa)
    • D= illusion, dominated by secondhand opinions and uncritical impressions
levels of awareness
Levels of Awareness
  • D: No one inhabits this level all the time but can occasionally slip into states of illusion
    • Magic show or a movie = “willing suspension of disbelief”
    • Can also have illusion without being aware of it when we hold opinions based solely on appearances, unanalyzed impressions, uncritically inherited beliefs, and unevaluated emotions
  • C: informed level of awareness
    • We know that a desk made up of molecules and atoms in motion = appearance is not what they are
      • Do not have sophisticated knowledge built upon rigorous deductive reasoning
      • Opinions based on observation and perceptions of physical object
levels of awareness1
Levels of Awareness
  • B: takes us out of “becoming” and opinion (D/C) and into the world of being and the first stage of knowledge (doesn’t change) acquired through deductive reasoning
    • Mother Theresa did grow and change
    • Form Human does not change, grow, or decay according to Plato
  • A: highest level of reality. Soul has no need for perception or interpretation. It “directly apprehends” the “absolute Form of the Good.” At this level, reason does not deduce the Forms
the simile of the sun
The Simile of the Sun
  • He compared the “absolute Form of the Good” to the sun:
    • Sun (light) is necessary for vision and life = Good makes Reality, Truth, and the existence of everything else possible
      • The GOOD can’t be observed with the 5 senses
        • Can be known only through pure thought or intelligence
  • Simile of the Sun = the act of apprehending the highest truth in the form of the Good.
the allegory of the cave book vii of the republic
The Allegory of the Cave: book VII of the Republic
  • Plato used this lesson to say why we should discount the views and experiences of the vast majority of people and listen o the claims of one supposedly wiser person
  • Includes Divided Line & Simile of the Sun in his Form theory
  • Allegory of the Cave:
    • compares the level of becoming to living in a cave
    • Describes the ordeal necessary for the soul’s ascent from shadowy illusion to enlightenment
      • From mere opinion to informed opinion to rationally based knowledge of wisdom
allegory of the cave corresponds to the divided line segments p141
Allegory of the Cave corresponds to the Divided Line Segments p141
  • D: Those chained to the wall of shadows are imprisoned in the shadowy world of imagination and illusion
  • C:Those loose within the cave occupy the “common sense” world of perception and informed opinion
  • B: Those struggling through the passageway to the surface are acquiring knowledge through reason
  • A: The rich surface world of warmth and sunlight is the highest level of reality, directly grasped by pure intelligence
the rule of the wise
The Rule of the Wise
  • Plato’s vision is hierarchical & aristocratic
    • Not egalitarian and democratic
    • Not based on gender, national origin
    • Based on conviction that enlightenment is real
      • More than mere intellectual ability
    • The product of careful training, directed desire, hard work, and the good luck of living in an environment that does not prevent us from escaping the Cave
    • Echoes Buddhist teaching that enlightenment is always accompanied by a desire to help others escape the bonds of illusion and ignorance
      • Socrates closed the lesson with the advice of love-based obligation of the wise person to guide and teach those less wise, helping them escape the Cape
the republic
The Republic
  • “You can’t persuade people who won’t listen,” said Socrates
    • Plato might refer to Socrates’ jury
    • Plato believed Socrates made a mistake of going to the people
  • Plato believed not everyone is capable of participating in rational discourse because they either lack the will or intellect or both
    • Even Socrates himself said that in matters of virtue and wisdom, the majority is usually wrong, while only a few are wise.
the search for justice
The Search for Justice
  • A clear understanding of a just society will yield a clear understanding of the just (healthy) individual.
    • Society = “the individual writ large”
  • Justice in the Republic covers right conduct or morality in general
    • Much more than fairness under the law
function and happiness
Function and Happiness

The Republic contrasts 2 views of morality

  • Right/wrong must be determined by the consequences our acts produce
    • Called instrumental theory of morality
      • Be good, get X; be bad; get Y
  • (Plato prefers) Right/wrong are in terms of their effect on our overall functioning as human beings
    • Called functionalist theory of morality
      • Each kind of thing has a natural purpose or function
      • “Happiness depends on conformity to our nature (function) as active beings” said A.E Taylor, a Plato scholar
        • Only virtuous people can be happy
        • Happiness = result of living a fully functioning life
    • Being please with what is good and displeased with what is bad
the ideal state
The Ideal State
  • The Republic reveals: A good life can be lived only in a good society
    • No one can live a truly good life in an irrational, imbalanced society, with no social activities, obligations, and concerns
  • Society originates because no individual is self-sufficient
  • A just society meet these kinds of needs, which are met by the corresponding types of people
    • Nourishing (food, shelter, clothing)
      • Workers (computer programmers, banker, truck driver)
    • Protection (military, police)
      • Warriors (soldiers, police officers, firefighters
    • Ordering (leadership and government)
      • Guardians (philosopher-kings)
    • Only when all classes of people are virtuous according to heir natures is the state whole, healthy, balanced, and just
  • Unjust state is dysfunctional & fails to meet some essential need; a form of imbalance for Plato
    • When one part of the state tries to fulfill the function of another part
the parts of the soul
The Parts of the Soul
  • For Plato, virtue = excellence of function, which reflects Form
  • Healthy human soul= all parts function harmoniously
    • Reason (go home & study for the test)
    • Spirit (This is awful…I don’t know what to do)
    • Appetite (I’d love a pizza & stay to party)
    • Plato believes in the weakness of the will vs. Socrates’ “to know the good is to do the good”
  • Example of 3 parts = charioteer (reason) trying to control the powerful wild horse (appetite) and the responding horse (spirit)
    • It is the function and therefore the duty and the right of the driver to control the horses.
4 cardinal virtues
4 Cardinal Virtues
  • 4 cardinal virtues necessary for the human soul
  • Temperance: self-control and moderation; important for the worker class, but necessary for all 3 classes of people. Same w/ state
  • Courage: of the warrior class to protect the community and enforce the just laws of the guardians
  • Wisdom: associated with the guardians (philosopher-kings who have seen the Good); is present when rational part of the soul is healthy
  • Justice: excellence of function for the whole. A just state nurtures each individual by providing a lifestyle appropriate to him or her: reason rules the spirit and appetite.
  • P148: Discuss the need for hierarchy, authority, and a governing order (family, marriages, churches/mosques, schools, or factories)
  • P149: Do you agree with Plato that democracy is incompatible with self-discipline? What sort of discipline do you think Plato was concerned about?
  • P152: Can you spot any symptoms in our society of the pattern Plato attributes to injustice in individuals and the state?
societies and individuals
Societies and Individuals
  • Utopia (outlined in the Republic and a dialogue called Laws)
    • Ideal/perfect society derived from Sir Thomas More’s 1516 novel of the same name: the word was created from the Greek root meaning “nowhere’
    • Plato’s ideal Form of government is rule by philosopher-kings, not democracy
      • An elitist alternative to our democracy?
the origin of democracy
The Origin of Democracy
  • Plato argues (Book VIII of the Republic) that democracy grows out of a type of government called oligarchy, the rule of a wealthy few.
    • Oligarchy’s chief goal is to get rich = create a constitution/type of government that encourage the acquisition of property
      • Change into democracy due to lack of restraint about getting rich
    • Thus, seeds of democracy derive from the love of property/riches and correspond with the desire for a free economy
      • Love of money and adequate self-discipline in its citizens can’t coexist; one must be neglected.
    • His diagnosis: rich get richer, poor grow angrier until they overthrow the rich, either through armed revolt or by social and legal pressure
the origin of democracy cont
The Origin of Democracy (cont)

Democracy, he said, is diverse in human temperament, but lack guidance, self-control, wisdom, and temperance

  • Swayed by opinion, rather than grounded in knowledge
  • In constant flux…always “becoming” & hostile to a fixed hierarchy of being
  • Violates the principle of functional order and rule by reason
  • Is pleasant “by appearance”
  • “you needn’t fight if there’s a war, or you an wage a private war in peacetime if you don’t like peace”
  • Democracy lacks the order and balance to provide such an environment for individuals to grow up to be good without good training from infancy.
the pendulum of imbalance
The Pendulum of Imbalance
  • To Plato, chief goal of democracy is “excessive liberty”
  • In a democracy according to Plato
    • “The least vestige of restraint is resented as intolerable.”
the tyranny of excess
The Tyranny of Excess
  • In a democracy, increasing self-indulgence from generation to generation will tyrannize the soul
  • Tyranny: Form of government in which all power rests in a single individual, known as the tyrant
  • Excesses of democracy become seeds of tyranny
    • Tyrant = most imbalanced type of personality
      • A person without control drugs or lust
      • A politician who is a slave to his own lust for power and domination
  • What looks like freedom is in reality lack of control, what looks like power is in truth a form of enslavement
  • For Plato, do we have any supportable firsthand evidence for believing in actual levels of reality
  • Allegory of the Cave helped us decide who is enlightened and who is deluded?
  • The Divided Line & Simile of the Sun only reflect certain psychological states?
  • Are his categories of people too restricting?