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He is regarded as a puzzling personality as although he did not write any information, he completely and permanently altered the method of understanding and thinking philosophy. He laid the basis of Western philosophy. Considering the standard of fifth-century Athens, his appearance, demeanor, personality, methods and views were exotic. It is said that he had large, bulging, crab-like eyes, a flat and upturned nose and large, fleshly, ass-like lips. He grew long hair and roamed, without having a wash, barefooted. He looked arrogant and his boastful, conceited movements caused the enemy soldiers to maintain a safe distance. Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes are the source of information regarding him. He had three sons named Lamprocles, Menexenus and Sophronisucs. It was declared that he was corrupting the young men in Athens and hence punished to death by consuming poisonous hemlock. Socratic method This is also called as the Method of Elenchus or Socratic Debate. Plato was the first to describe it in the "Socratic dialogues". This is a method of philosophical inquiry used for the assessment of key moral concepts. It is for this method that Socrates is considered as the father and originator of moral philosophy and western ethics. The method includes the following points:
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interrogating a range of questions regarding a pivotal issue providing answers to these questions defending certain points of view the ideal method to achieve triumph is that if the opponent asserts something opposite to his own statement, then this is an evidence that the enquirer is correct
Elenchos is said to be the prime technique of the Socratic method. Socrates used this technique to examine to nature of ethical concepts like virtue or justice. This was executed as follows:
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an interlocutor makes a statement Socrates may consider it as wrong and aim to cancel it Socrates makes other statements the interlocutor accedes that these statements are contradictory to his statement Socrates asserts that the interlocutor's statement is false and its opposite is true one assessment can cause a more refined assessment of the concept under debate a series of elenchai may take place and culminate in a state of puzzlement
The Socratic method is to search for the assumptions that shape one's sentiment. These assumptions are pondered over and their consistency with other beliefs is checked. A series of logical questions are asked with the objective of assisting a person to discover the individual opinions regarding some topic. Socrates philosophy Socrates asserted that an individual must know himself in order to be wise. A life that has not been examined is not worth living. The philosophy of Socrates can be learnt through the writings of Plato. Socrates spoke that he was like a midwife. However, he attended the souls of men when they were in trouble. His art won when he could profoundly assess whether the thoughts that arose in the minds of the youth were false icons or true and noble. He had the opinion that just like midwives he was also barren. He was blamed that he asked questions for which he himself had no answer. He replied that he was not astute or had nothing to demonstrate that was the invention of his soul. However, those who would converse with him would necessarily gain something. Socrates also said that the youth belonging to the richer class accosted him of their own sweet will. They tried to ape him by examining others. There were many such rich youth who assumed that they knew some facts, but in fact knew very less or nothing. It so happened that the people examined by such rich youth rather than being angry with themselves showered their wrath on Socrates. So, he was titled as the "villainous misleader of the youth". These people could not tell precisely how Socrates was wrong. Only as they were large in number they could effect loud slander.
Plato First published Sat Mar 20, 2004; substantive revision Thu Sep 17, 2009 Plato (429±347 B.C.E.) is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy. An Athenian citizen of high status, he displays in his works his absorption in the political events and intellectual movements of his time, but the questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects. He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word ³philosopher´ should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived ² a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method ² can be called his invention. Few other authors in the history of philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank.
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1. Plato's central doctrines 2. Plato's puzzles 3. Dialogue, setting, character 4. Socrates 5. Plato's indirectness 6. Can we know Plato's mind? 7. Socrates as the dominant speaker 8. Links between the dialogues 9. Does Plato change his mind about forms? 10. Does Plato change his mind about politics? 11. The historical Socrates: early, middle, and late dialogues 12. Why dialogues? Bibliography o Translations into English o General Overviews o On Socrates o Interpretive Strategies
Chronology of the Dialogues Other Internet Resources Related Entries
1. Plato's central doctrines Many people associate Plato with a few central doctrines that are advocated in his writings: The world that appears to our senses is in some way defective and filled with error, but there is a more real and perfect realm, populated by entities (called ³forms´ or ³ideas´) that are eternal, changeless, and in some sense paradigmatic for the structure and character of our world. Among the most important of these abstract objects (as they are now called, because they are not located in space or time) are goodness, beauty, equality, bigness, likeness, unity, being, sameness, difference, change, and changelessness. (These terms ² ³goodness´, ³beauty´, and so on ² are often capitalized by those who write about Plato, in order to call attention to their exalted status; similarly for ³Forms´ and ³Ideas.´) The most fundamental distinction in Plato's philosophy is between the many observable objects that appear beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) and the one object that is what beauty (goodness, justice, unity) really is, from which those many beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) things receive their names and their corresponding characteristics. Nearly every major work of Plato is, in some way, devoted to or dependent on this distinction. Many of them explore the ethical and practical consequences of conceiving of reality in this bifurcated way. We are urged to transform our values by taking to heart the greater reality of the forms and the defectiveness of the corporeal world. We must recognize that the soul is a different sort of object from the body ² so much so that it does not depend on the existence of the body for its functioning, and can in fact grasp the nature of the forms far more easily when it is not encumbered by its attachment to anything corporeal. In a few of Plato's works, we are told that the soul always retains the ability to recollect what it once grasped of the forms, when it was disembodied (see especially Meno), and that the lives we lead are to some extent a punishment or reward for choices we made in a previous existence (see especially the final pages of Republic). But in many of Plato's writings, it is asserted or assumed that true philosophers ² those who recognize how important it is to distinguish the one (the one thing that goodness is, or virtue is, or courage is) from the many (the many things that are called good or virtuous or courageous ) ² are in a position to become ethically superior to unenlightened human beings, because of the greater degree of insight they can acquire. To
Many of his works therefore give their readers a strong sense of philosophy as a living and unfinished subject (perhaps one that can never be completed) to which they themselves will have to contribute. what we often receive from Plato is a few key ideas together with a series of suggestions and problems about how those ideas are to be interrogated and deployed. the forms are sometimes described as hypotheses (see for example Phaedo). When one compares Plato with some of the other philosophers who are often ranked with him ² Aristotle. and playful than they. incompletely systematic.understand which things are good and why they are good (and if we are not interested in such questions. All of Plato's works are in some way meant to leave further work for their readers. The form of good in particular is described as something of a mystery whose real nature is elusive and as yet unknown (Republic). (There is one striking exception: his Apology. if they are to learn what the dialogue itself might be thought to say about them. Dialogue. Plato's puzzles Although these propositions are often identified by Plato's readers as forming a large part of the core of his philosophy. Readers of a Platonic dialogue are drawn into thinking for themselves about the issues raised. of his writings can accurately be described as mere advocacy of a cut-anddried group of propositions. and Kant. That. but among the ones that most conspicuously fall into this category are: Euthyphro. Theaetetus. setting. if any. Charmides. we must investigate the form of good. character There is another feature of Plato's writings that makes him distinctive among the great philosophers and colors our experience of him as an author. Nearly everything he wrote takes the form of a dialogue. and Parmenides. or about what it is to know anything (Theaetetus) or to name anything (Cratylus). Often Plato's works exhibit a certain degree of dissatisfaction and puzzlement with even those doctrines that are being recommended for our consideration. 2. many of his greatest admirers and most careful students point out that few. Puzzles are raised ² and not overtly answered ² about how any of the forms can be known and how we are to talk about them without falling into contradiction (Parmenides). His readers are not presented with an elaborate system of doctrines held to be so fully worked out that they are in no need of further exploration or development. elusive. along with his gifts as a writer and as a creator of vivid character and dramatic setting. Laches. which purports to be . is one of the reasons why he is often thought to be the ideal author from whom one should receive one's introduction to philosophy. for example ² he can be recognized to be far more exploratory. For example. how can we become good?). Euthydemus. Aquinas. 3. instead.
a stroll outside the city's wall. since antiquity. that is true of a large number of Plato's interlocutors. and many or most of them are almost certainly not his. he is not an invention of Plato: there really was a Socrates. in some cases. it must be added that in some of his works the speakers display little or no character. a celebration over drinks. in 399. and Euripides. and are not purely intellectual exchanges between characterless and socially unmarked speakers. which ancient testimony tells us was one of his latest works: that figure is Socrates. Plato is not only attempting to draw his readers into a discussion. However. Some of the dialogues that most evidently fall into this category are Protagoras. Sophocles. (At any rate. Meletus. 4. for example. a religious festival.) In many of his dialogues (though not all). many of whom can be identified as real historical figures. a wealthy man's house. as many literary dramas do. As a group. Sophist and Statesman ² dialogues in which a visitor from the town of Elea in Southern Italy leads the discussion. However. also be an appropriate word ² among a small number of interlocutors.the speech that Socrates gave in his defense ² the Greek word apologia means ³defense´ ² when. a long walk on a hot day.) We are of course familiar with the dialogue form through our acquaintance with the literary genre of drama. and often they begin with a depiction of the setting of the discussion ² a visit to a prison. and Laws. being completely absent only in Laws. one from Crete and the other from Sparta. even there. like the creations of the great Greek tragedians Aeschylus. Socrates is presented at one point addressing questions of a philosophical character to his accuser. a collection of 13 letters has been included among his collected works. Most of them purport to be the outcome of his involvement in the politics of Syracuse. and Symposium. a visit to the gymnasium. Hippias Major. and criticizing the character and ways of life of his interlocutors. Euthydemus. In addition. but their authenticity as compositions of Plato is not universally accepted among scholars. a discussion between an unnamed Athenian and two named fictional characters. a heavily populated Greek city located in Sicily and ruled by tyrants. but is also commenting on the social milieu that he is depicting. they form vivid portraits of a social world. Nor are they all presented in the form of a drama: in many of them. Plato was not the only author whose personal experience . and responding to them. But Plato's dialogues do not try to create a fictional world for the purposes of telling a story. Like nearly everyone else who appears in Plato's works. nor do they invoke an earlier mythical realm. he was legally charged and convicted of the crime of impiety. See. a single speaker narrates events in which he participated. They are philosophical discussions ² ³debates´ would. Gorgias. Socrates There is one interlocutor who speaks in nearly all of Plato's dialogues.
Phaedo). No doubt he in some way borrowed in important ways from Socrates. and Xenophon. unwashed. is generally thought to lack the philosophical subtlety and depth of Plato's. the historical Socrates was the sort of person who provoked in those who knew him. and Plato are the ones that have survived intact. when Plato wrote dialogues that feature Socrates as a principal speaker. he was both contributing to a genre that was inspired by the life of Socrates and participating in a lively literary debate about the kind of person Socrates was and the value of the intellectual conversations in which he was involved. for the most part it is an attack on a philosophical type ² the long-haired. like Plato. no one (certainly not Xenophon himself) takes Xenophon to be a major philosopher in his own right. and they are therefore the ones that must play the greatest role in shaping our conception of what Socrates was like. So. Antisthenes. and he inspired many of those who came under his influence to write about him. we have some fragmentary remains of dialogues written by other contemporaries of Socrates (Aeschines. or knew of him. we are not encountering a great philosophical mind. At any rate. Xenophon.C. But the portraits composed by Aristophanes. . but even if we have little or no desire to learn about the historical Socrates.of Socrates led to the depiction of him as a character in one or more dramatic works. it is not intended as a philosophical work. Aristophanes' comic portrayal of Socrates is at the same time a bitter critique of him and other leading intellectual figures of the day (the 420s B. and these purport to describe conversations he conducted with others. Xenophon's depiction of Socrates. Clouds has the least value as an indication of what was distinctive of Socrates' mode of philosophizing: after all. But that is what we experience when we read Plato. Clouds. Evidently. and although it may contain a few lines that are characterizations of features unique to Socrates. a historian and military leader. we will want to read Plato because in doing so we are encountering an author of the greatest philosophical significance.). when we read his Socratic works. amoral investigator into abstruse empirical phenomena ² rather than a depiction of Socrates himself. a profound response. Furthermore. both an Apology of Socrates (an account of Socrates' trial) and other works in which Socrates appears as a principal speaker. Of these. though it is not easy to say where to draw the line between him and his teacher (more about this below in section 12). Socrates is one of the principal characters of Aristophanes' comedy. We may read Plato's Socratic dialogues because we are (as Plato evidently wanted us to be) interested in who Socrates was and what he stood for. Xenophon. But it is widely agreed among scholars that Plato is not a mere transcriber of the words of Socrates (any more than Xenophon or the other authors of Socratic discourses). Eucleides. whatever its value as historical testimony (which may be considerable). but from Plato. and the other composers (in the 390's and later) of ³Socratic discourses´ (as Aristotle calls this body of writings) we receive a far more favorable impression. wrote.
does not appear in all of Plato's works. and has led to considerable controversy among those who study his writings. as noted above. Phaedrus. it is striking that throughout his career as a writer he never engaged in a form of composition that was widely used in his time and was soon to become the standard mode of philosophical address: Plato never became a writer of philosophical treatises. but the role played by questions and answers is never the same from one dialogue to another. in fact. and Critias. (The closest we come to an exception to this generalization is the seventh letter. if any of them are genuine ² Plato never speaks to his audience directly and in his own voice.) In all of his writings ² except in the letters. for example. and its author did not wish it to be so regarded.His use of a figure called ³Socrates´ in so many of his dialogues should not be taken to mean that Plato is merely preserving for a reading public the lessons he learned from his teacher. Menexenus. he does not himself affirm anything in his dialogues. which contains a brief section in which Plato commits himself to several philosophical points ² while insisting. the author of the seventh letter declares his opposition to the writing of philosophical books. it is the interlocutors in his dialogues who are made by Plato to do all of the affirming. 6. presents a long and elaborate. Can we know Plato's mind? This feature of Plato's works raises important questions about how they are to be read. But even though Plato constantly adapted ³the dialogue form´ (a commonly used term. while some other figure dominates the conversation or even. not only do his speakers vary. questioning. the authenticity of Plato's letters is a matter of great controversy. and so on. and in any case. Statesman. Plato's indirectness Socrates. on rhetoric. even though the writing of treatises (for example. medicine. is a series of speeches. rather. not only do his topics vary. (Symposium. that no philosopher will write about the deepest matters. as in the Timaeus and Critias. so long as we do not think of it as an unvarying unity) to suit his purposes. Timaeus) in which his role is small and peripheral. continuous discourse of their own. and convenient enough. 5. Plato's dialogues are not a static literary form. But. Strictly speaking.Timaeus. Since he does not . Protagoras. and there are also lengthy speeches in Apology. one might reasonably question whether these works are properly called dialogues). at the same time. it cannot be regarded as a philosophical treatise. and geometry) was a common practice among his predecessors and contemporaries. Crito. Whatever he wishes to communicate to us is conveyed indirectly. and there are several dialogues (Sophist. it should be kept in mind. doubting. arguing. Whether Plato wrote it or not. He makes no appearance in Laws.
for example. and why. Glaucon and Adeimantus. whether they constitute ³the philosophy of Plato´? Should we not read his works for their intrinsic philosophical value. and can we discover what they were? Are we justified in speaking of ³the philosophy of Plato´? Or. who is reaching out to a readership and trying to influence their beliefs and actions by means of his literary . in refraining from addressing his readers as an author of treatises. to adopt a strategy of extreme caution. if one notes that. are we violating the spirit in which he intended the dialogues to be read? Is his whole point. can we ever be on secure ground in attributing a philosophical doctrine to him (as opposed to one of his characters)? Did he himself have philosophical convictions. One cannot be faulted. that Plato himself agrees that this is how justice should be defined. for example. to discourage them from asking what their author believes and to encourage them instead simply to consider the plausibility or implausibility of what his characters are saying? Is that why Plato wrote dialogues? If not for this reason. and confine oneself to talking only about what is said by his dramatis personae. We should not lose sight of this obvious fact: it is Plato.himself affirm anything in any of his dialogues. then what was his purpose in refraining from addressing his audience in a more direct way? There are other important questions about the particular shape his dialogues take: for example. it is tempting. in some of these works. in Plato's Republic. accept the arguments that Socrates gives for that definition of justice. or none at all? Once these questions are raised and their difficulty acknowledged. and not as tools to be used for entering into the mind of their author? We know what Plato's characters say ² and isn't that all that we need. is it of any importance to discover what went on inside his head as he wrote ² to find out whether he himself endorsed the ideas he put in the mouths of his characters. Socrates argues that justice in the soul consists in each part of the soul doing its own. Rather than commit oneself to any hypothesis about what he is trying to communicate to his readers. in reading Plato's works and reflecting upon them. why does Socrates play such a prominent role in so many of them. It is equally correct to point out that other principal speakers in that work. After all. does Socrates play a smaller role. one might adopt a stance of neutrality about his intentions. if we attribute some view to Plato himself. And we might adopt this same ³minimalist´ approach to all of Plato's works. not any of his dramatis personae. for the purpose of engaging with his works philosophically? But the fact that we know what Plato's characters say does not show that by refusing to entertain any hypotheses about what the author of these works is trying to communicate to his readers we can understand what those characters mean by what they say. or that Plato himself accepts the arguments that Socrates gives in support of this definition. Perhaps there is no need for us to say more ² to say.
on the basis of the arguments presented? The only plausible way of answering that question is to say that these dialogues were intended by Plato to be devices by which he might induce the audience for which they are intended to reflect on and accept the arguments and conclusions offered by his principal interlocutor. that there are forms. or Plato the author. and what the dialogue itself indicates we should think about what they mean. Symposium. after all. we will not profit from reading his dialogues.) This does not mean that Plato thinks that his readers can become wise simply by reading and studying his works. The educative value of written texts is thus explicitly acknowledged by Plato's dominant speaker. Socrates) and convinces the other speakers (at times. Timaeus. and so on. On the contrary. after encountering initial resistance) that they should accept or reject certain conclusions. his own dialogues ² can also serve an educative function. (It is noteworthy that in Laws. Sophist. Similarly. it is highly likely that he wanted all of his writings to be supplementary aids to philosophical conversation: in one of his works. through the writing that he is presenting to our attention. Furthermore. Why. If preludes can educate a whole citizenry that is prepared to learn from them. or is better read as a revelation of how foolish that speaker is. Statesman. Theaetetus. the dialogues have certain characteristics that are most easily explained by supposing that Plato is using them as vehicles for inducing his readers to become convinced (or more convinced than they already are) of certain propositions ² for example. Laws) in which one character dominates the conversation (often. We should not suppose that we can derive much philosophical value from Plato's writings if we refuse to entertain any thoughts about what use he intends us to make of the things his speakers say. or taking them to be authoritative. he has Socrates warn his readers against relying solely on books.actions. Penetrating the mind of Plato and comprehending what his interlocutors mean by what they say are not two separate tasks but one. When we ask whether an argument put forward by a character in Plato's works should be read as an effort to persuade us of its conclusion. They are. Phaedrus. is saying. we are asking about what Plato (not that character) is trying to lead us to believe. that knowledge can be acquired only by means of a study of the forms. and if we do not ask what his interlocutors mean by what they say. Philebus. . we are asking what Plato means to communicate to us through the speaker who uses that word.Republic. when we ask how a word that has several different senses is best understood. We need to interpret the work itself to find out what it. that the soul is not corporeal. the principal speaker ² an unnamed visitor from Athens ² proposes that laws should be accompanied by ³preludes´ in which their philosophical basis is given as full an explanation as possible. did Plato write so many works (for example: Phaedo. but not always. then surely Plato thinks that other sorts of written texts ² for example.
Socrates says. and conclusions are drawn.) The reader is given every encouragement to believe that the reason why Socrates is successful in persuading his interlocutors (on those occasions when he does succeed) is that his arguments are powerful ones. 7. to accept the conclusions arrived at by his principal interlocutors (or to persuade us of the refutations of their opponents). and Phaedrus that point in the opposite direction. (More about this in section 12. But there are many signs in such works as Meno. he implies in this passage from Phaedrus. in many of his works. and the aura surrounding the character called ³Socrates´ would give the words he speaks in the dialogue considerable persuasive power. we can easily explain why he so often chooses Socrates as the dominant speaker in his dialogues. and has him refer to his trial or to the characteristics by which he was best known). Phaedo. and that his interlocutors are foolish to accept them. For example. (And the great admiration Plato feels for Socrates is also evident from his Apology. will work best when conversational seeds have already been sown for the arguments they contain. arguments are given. Plato could have written into his works clear signals to the reader that the arguments of Socrates do not work. Furthermore. in other words. The reader. Presumably the contemporary audience for whom Plato was writing included many of Socrates' admirers. Republic. best used as devices that stimulate the readers' memory of discussions they have had (Phaedrus 274e-276d). They would be predisposed to think that a character called ³Socrates´ would have all of the intellectual brilliance and moral passion of the historical person after whom he is named (especially since Plato often makes special efforts to give his ³Socrates´ a life-like reality. In those face-to-face conversations with a knowledgeable leader. if Plato felt strongly indebted to Socrates for many of his philosophical techniques and ideas. is being encouraged by the author to accept those arguments. we could say that Plato was trying to undermine the reputation of the historical Socrates by writing a series of works in which a figure called ³Socrates´ manages to persuade a group of naïve and sycophantic interlocutors to accept absurd conclusions on the basis of sophistries. that would give him further reason for assigning a dominant role to him in many of his works. When we interpret . Socrates as the dominant speaker If we take Plato to be trying to persuade us. positions are taken. there are other more speculative possible ways of explaining why Plato so often makes Socrates his principal speaker.) Of course. But anyone who has read some of Plato's works will quickly recognize the utter implausibility of that alternative way of reading them. Plato's writings. if not as definitive then at least as highly arresting and deserving of careful and full positive consideration.
many of his dialogues make a fresh start in their setting and their interlocutors: typically. good. Socrates says that one argument for the immortality of the soul derives from the fact that when people are asked certain kinds of questions. and so. he needs to give his readers some indication of their character and social circumstances. and Statesman sequentially.the dialogues in this way. but are drawing their knowledge of the answers from within themselves. or refer back to conversations they had recently: thus Plato signals to us that we should read Theaetetus. and will bring to bear on the current argument all of the lessons that they have learned from them. Links between the dialogues There is a further reason for entertaining hypotheses about what Plato intended and believed. Socrates encounters a group of people many of whom do not appear in any other work of Plato. and attributing to him. we cannot escape the fact that we are entering into the mind of Plato. we are inevitably confronted with the question of how we are to link the work we are currently reading with the many others that Plato composed. Plato's characters refer ahead to the continuation of their conversations on another day. In some of his writings. Several pages later. Sophist. they answer in a way that shows that they are not learning afresh from the diagrams or from information provided in the questions. a positive evaluation of the arguments that his speakers present to each other. as an author. For example. When we undertake a serious study of Plato. Evidently. Socrates tells his interlocutors that his argument about our prior knowledge of equality itself (the form of equality) applies no less to other forms ² to the beautiful. and similarly. and go beyond reading just one of his works. and are aided with diagrams. . just. But often Plato's characters make statements that would be difficult for readers to understand unless they had already read one or more of his other works. Plato is assuming that readers of Phaedo have already read several of his other works. their author. and not merely confining ourselves to observations about what sorts of people his characters are and what they say to each other. That remark would be of little worth for an audience that had not already read Meno. 8. in Phaedo (73a-b). since the opening of Timaeus refers us back to Republic. ³What is X?´ (Euthyphro: what is piety? Laches: what is courage? Charmides: What is moderation? Hippias Major: what is beauty?). Admittedly. Plato is indicating to his readers that they must seek some connection between these two works. This reference to asking and answering questions would not be well understood by a reader who had not yet encountered a series of dialogues in which Socrates asks his interlocutors questions of the form. pious and to all the other things that are involved in their asking and answering of questions (75d).
the principal interlocutor (not Socrates ² he is here portrayed as a promising. (Meno does not re-appear in Phaedo. the Eleatic visitor) reaffirm some of the same points from one dialogue to another. on the basis of our reading of the dialogues. whether he revises some of the assumptions he had been making about them. Socrates continues to maintain.) Why does Plato have his dominant characters (Socrates. InParmenides. and the visitor criticizes any conception of reality that excludes such incorporeal objects as souls and forms. 9. and. The Eleatic visitor. It is. the existence of forms continues to be taken for granted. and then consents to conduct an inquiry into the nature of oneness that has no overt connection to his critique of the forms. in many respects. when Socrates is replaced as the principal investigator by the visitor from Elea (in Sophist and Statesman). like the one that Socrates is made to defend. One of the most intriguing and controversial questions about his treatment of the forms. Does the discussion of oneness (a . the best explanation for this continuity is that Plato is using both characters ² Socrates and the Eleatic visitor ² as devices for the presentation and defense of a doctrine that he embraces and wants his readers to embrace as well. He will introduce new ideas and raise fresh difficulties. whether Plato means to modify or reject in one dialogue what he has his main interlocutor affirm in some other. over a large number of dialogues. a difficult and delicate matter to determine. in fact. young philosopher in need of further training ² but rather the preSocratic from Elea who gives the dialogue its name: Parmenides) subjects the forms to withering criticism. Furthermore. that there are such things as forms² and there is no better explanation for this continuity than to suppose that Plato is recommending that doctrine to his readers. For example. Timaeus was not among the interlocutors ofRepublic. or develops a more elaborate picture of them that allows him to respond to that criticism. in other words. Again. upholds a metaphysics that is. if so.These features of the dialogues show Plato's awareness that he cannot entirely start from scratch in every work that he writes. but he will also expect his readers to have already familiarized themselves with the conversations held by the interlocutors of other dialogues ² even when there is some alteration among those interlocutors. and build on ideas that were made in earlier works? If the dialogues were merely meant as provocations to thought ² mere exercises for the mind ² there would be no need for Plato to identify his leading characters with a consistent and ever-developing doctrine. for example. is whether he concedes that his conception of those abstract entities is vulnerable to criticism. Does Plato change his mind about forms? This way of reading Plato's dialogues does not presuppose that he never changes his mind about anything ² that whatever any of his main interlocutors uphold in one dialogue will continue to be presupposed or affirmed elsewhere without alteration.
Even the highly abstract questions raised in Sophist about the nature of . whose beauty pales in comparison with that of the forms. propositions that seem. a way of thinking of forms that carefully steers clear of the assumptions about forms that led to Parmenides' critique? It is not easy to say. It is noteworthy. If we find Timaeus (the principal interlocutor of the dialogue named after him) and the Eleatic visitor of the Sophist and Statesman talking about forms in a way that is entirely consistent with the way Socrates talks about forms in Phaedo and Republic. on the other hand. But it is remarkable how few of his works fall into this category. Some of his works ² Parmenides is a stellar example ² do confine themselves to exploring questions that seem to have no bearing whatsoever on practical life. then the most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that Plato has changed his mind about the nature of these entities. that Plato is. And if we do read it in this way. to begin with. he evinces a sense of the ugliness of the sensible world. (Similarly.baffling series of contradictions ² or at any rate. on the surface. to a yearning to escape from the tawdriness of ordinary human relations. and to confine his speculations to theoretical questions. It would be implausible to suppose that Plato himself had no convictions about forms. For he gives expression. in several of his writings (particular Phaedo). or is at least strongly supported by powerful considerations. Does Plato change his mind about politics? The same point ² that we must view the dialogues as the product of a single mind. a single philosopher. and merely wants to give his readers mental exercise by composing dialogues in which different leading characters talk about these objects in discordant ways. to be contradictions) in some way help address the problems raised about forms? That is one way of reading the dialogue. does that show that Plato has changed his mind about some of the ideas about forms he inserted into earlier dialogues? Can we find dialogues in which we encounter a ³new theory of forms´ ² that is. 10. then there is only one reasonable explanation for that consistency: Plato believes that their way of talking about forms is correct. and of bringing that truth to the attention of others. If. though perhaps one that changes his mind ² can be made in connection with the politics of Plato's works. But we cannot even raise this as an issue worth pondering unless we presuppose that behind the dialogues there stands a single mind that is using these writings as a way of hitting upon the truth. it would have been all too easy for Plato to turn his back entirely on practical reality.) Because of this. a political philosopher. we find that Timaeus or the Eleatic visitor talks about forms in a way that does not harmonize with the way Socrates conceives of those abstract objects. in the dialogues that assign him a central role as director of the conversation. among other things.
legislation. as the only Athenian who has tried his hand at the true art of politics. And if we have any further doubts that Plato does take an interest in the practical realm. A work of such great detail and length about voting procedures. he presents himself as having a deep interest in educating (with the help of his friend. He presents himself. embedded in a search for the definition of sophistry. sophists are to be despised and avoided. in Timaeus. In any case. Plato evinces a deep antipathy to rule by the many. private property. appreciating its limited beauty. and thus they call to mind the question whether Socrates should be classified as a sophist ² whether. consists in his depiction of it as the outcome of divine efforts to mold reality in the image of the forms. Socrates presents himself. The motivation that lies behind the writing of this dialogue is the desire to transform (or. and the oversight of public officials can only have been produced by someone who wants to contribute something to the improvement of the lives we lead in this sensible and imperfect realm. in Plato's Apology. In most of them. punishments. and thus reforming that city's politics. despite the great sympathy Plato expresses for the desire to shed one's body and live in an incorporeal world.being and not-being are. on any plausible reading of Republic. Just as any attempt to understand Plato's views about forms must confront the question whether his thoughts about them developed or altered over time. we need only turn to Laws. using simple geometrical patterns and harmonious arithmetic relations as building blocks. His tribute to the mixed beauty of the sensible world. For example. in Gorgias. He does not want to escape from the everyday world but to make it better. and improving it. Further evidence of Plato's interest in practical matters can be drawn from his letters. Dion) the ruler of Syracuse. after all. Socrates tells his interlocutors that the only politics that should engage them are those of the anti-democratic regime he depicts as the paradigm of a good . the Socrates of Republic devotes a considerable part of his discussion to the critique of ordinary social institutions ² the family. in other words. if they are genuine. as a man who does not have his head in the clouds (that is part of Aristophanes' charge against him in Clouds). Similarly. education. and rule by the many. at any rate. not to escape from it (although it is acknowledged that the desire to escape is an honorable one: the best sort of rulers greatly prefer the contemplation of divine reality to the governance of the city). The desire to transform human relations is given expression in a far larger number of works. to improve) political life. so too our reading of him as a political philosopher must be shaped by a willingness to consider the possibility that he changed his mind. he devotes an enormous amount of energy to the task of understanding the world we live in. Dionysius II.
And yet in Laws. at this point of his career. According to this way of placing the dialogues into a rough chronological order ² associated especially with Gregory Vlastos's name (see especially his Socrates Ironist and Moral Philosopher. The historical Socrates: early. was content to use . 11. is a waste of time ² but then decide that it is an endeavor of great value? (And if so. he composed. we should say: Since both Republic and Laws are works in which Plato is trying to move his readers towards certain conclusions. and because it is the Athenian visitor (not Plato) who recognizes the merits of rule by the many in Laws. middle. the Athenian visitor proposes a detailed legislative framework for a city in which non-philosophers (people who have never heard of the forms. because it is Socrates (not Plato) who is critical of democracy in Republic. If we answer that question negatively. and that the two works therefore cannot come into contradiction with each other. According to this hypothesis (one that must be rejected).constitution. Plato would not have invested so much time in the creation of this comprehensive and lengthy work. But it would be utterly implausible to suppose that these developmental questions need not be raised. Against this hypothesis. but are mainly devoted to portraying the way in which Socrates punctured the pretensions of his interlocutors and forced them to realize that they are unable to offer satisfactory definitions of the ethical terms they used. in addition to his Apology of Socrates. by having them reflect on certain arguments ² these dialogues are not barred from having this feature by their use of interlocutors ² it would be an evasion of our responsibility as readers and students of Plato not to ask whether what one of them advocates is compatible with what the other advocates. what led him to change his mind?) Answers to these questions can be justified only by careful attention to what he has his interlocutors say. had he not believed that the creation of a political community ruled by those who are philosophically unenlightened is a project that deserves the support of his readers. Has Plato changed his mind. on the grounds that Republic and Laws each has its own cast of characters. or satisfactory arguments for their moral beliefs. we must say why the appearance of conflict is illusory. a number of short ethical dialogues that contain little or nothing in the way of positive philosophical doctrine. with all of their imperfections. and late dialogues Many contemporary scholars find it plausible that when Plato embarked on his career as a philosophical writer. chapters 2 and 3) ² Plato. we have some explaining to do: what led to this change? Alternatively. if we conclude that the two works are compatible. there is no possibility that the two dialogues are in tension with each other. and have not been trained to understand them) are given considerable powers as rulers. then? Has he re-evaluated the highly negative opinion he once held of those who are innocent of philosophy? Did he at first think that the reform of existing Greek cities.
justice. in Apology Socrates says that no one knows what becomes of us after we die. Laches. it is sometimes said that Protagoras and Gorgias are later. Charmides and Lysis ² are thought not to be among Plato's earliest within this early group. Euthyphro. Crito. andProtagoras. because in them Socrates appears to be playing a more active role in shaping the progress of the dialogue: that is. to all of his contemporaries ² particularly those among them who claimed to be experts on religious. and he also says that he was in the habit of asking definitional questions to which he himself lacked answers (Metaphysics 987b1. these ³Socratic´ works contain little in the way of metaphysical. I on. of course. and the like. The speaker called ³Socrates´ now begins to move beyond and depart from the historical Socrates: he has views about the methodology that should be used by philosophers (a methodology borrowed from mathematics). (Some scholars hold that we can tell which of these come later during Plato's early period. and they therefore fit well with the way Socrates characterizes himself in Plato's Apology: as a man who leaves investigations of high falutin¶ matters (which are ³in the sky and below the earth´) to wiser heads. although he continued to use the name ³Socrates´ for the interlocutor who presented and argued for these new ideas. Sophistical Refutations 183b7). Hippias Minor.his writings primarily for the purpose of preserving the memory of Socrates and making plain the superiority of his hero. and he argues for the immortality of the soul and the existence and importance of the forms of beauty. Lysis. Euthydemus. goodness. in intellectual skill and moral seriousness.) In comparison with many of Plato's other dialogues. (By contrast. That testimony gives added weight to the widely accepted hypothesis that there is a group of dialogues ² the ones mentioned above as his early works ² in which Plato used the dialogue form as a way of portraying the philosophical activities of the historical Socrates (although. Hippias Major. because of their greater length and philosophical complexity. Gorgias. For example. he has more ideas of his own. he might also have used them in other ways as well ² for example to suggest and begin to explore philosophical difficulties raised by them). Aristotle describes Socrates as someone whose interests were restricted to only one branch of philosophy ² the realm of the ethical. or methodological speculation. But at a certain point ² so says this hypothesis about the chronology of the dialogues ² Plato began to use his works to advance ideas that were his own creations rather than those of Socrates. epistemological. political. or moral matters. Other dialogues ² for example. Into this category of early dialogues (they are also sometimes called ³Socratic´ dialogues) are placed:Charmides.) Phaedo is often said to be the dialogue in which Plato first comes into his own as a philosopher who is moving far beyond the ideas of his teacher . and confines all of his investigations to the question how one should live one's life.
(though it is also commonly said that we see a new methodological sophistication and a greater interest in mathematical knowledge in Meno). The focus is no longer on ridding ourselves of false ideas and selfdeceit. and placed the theory of forms (and related ideas about language. our two worlds ² and our need to negotiate between them. In these works of his ³middle´ period ² for example. we characterize as early. following ancient testimony. Plato widened the range of topics to be explored in his writings (no longer confining himself to ethics). Republic. and further that this dialogue shares a great many stylistic affinities with a small group of others: Sophist. This hypothesis about the chronology of Plato's writings has a third component: it does not place his works into either of only two categories ² the early or ³Socratic´ dialogues. and ideals of the historical Socrates and the new Socrates who has now become a vehicle for the articulation of his own philosophical outlook. in Phaedo. and love) at the center of his thinking. middle. Critias. we are asked to accept (however tentatively) a radical new conception of ourselves (now divided into three parts). These five dialogues together with Laws are generally agreed to be his late works. insights. than with any of Plato's other works. Plato continues to use a figure called ³Socrates´ as his principal interlocutor.Cratylus. and all the rest ² but works instead with a threefold division of early. In doing so. our world ² or rather. but the isolation of a group of six dialogues by means of their stylistic commonalities was recognized in the nineteenth century. and Philebus. and Phaedrus ² there is both a change of emphasis and of doctrine. Timaeus. because they have much more in common with each other. (Computer counts have aided these stylometric studies. and in this way he creates a sense of continuity between the methods.) It is not at all clear whether there are one or more philosophical affinities among this group of six dialogues ² that is. Having completed all of the dialogues that. whether the philosophy they contain is sharply different from that . That is because. and the rest of the dialogue shows how the new ideas and tools discovered by Plato can complete the project that his teacher was unable to finish. Symposium. it has become a widely accepted assumption thatLaws is one of Plato's last works. Definitions of the most important virtue terms are finally proposed in Republic (the search for them in some of the early dialogues having been unsuccessful): Book I of this dialogue is a portrait of how the historical Socrates might have handled the search for a definition of justice. rather. and late. Statesman. when one counts certain stylistic features apparent only to readers of Plato's Greek. knowledge. according to this hypothesis. he acknowledges his intellectual debt to his teacher and appropriates for his own purposes the extraordinary prestige of the man who was the wisest of his time.
or Republic. Similarly. On the contrary. one could point to features of many of the ³Socratic´ dialogues that would justify counting them in the latter category. moving back and forth between them as he aged: on the one hand. there is no good reason to eliminate the hypothesis that throughout much of his life Plato devoted himself to writing two sorts of dialogues at the same time. and thereby to rid them of their pretensions and false beliefs. that when one looks beyond these stage-setting devices. middle. Resolving this issue requires intensive study of the content of Plato's works. and on the other hand. In light of widely accepted assumptions about how most philosophical minds develop. so that too is likely to have been composed near the beginning of Plato's writing career. works filled with more substantive philosophical theories supported by elaborate argumentation. or Crito. although it is widely accepted that the six dialogues mentioned above belong to Plato's latest period. Lysis. In fact. it is likely that when Plato started writing philosophical works some of the shorter and simpler dialogues were the ones he composed: Laches. Of course. even though the argumentation does not concern metaphysics or methodology or invoke mathematics ²Gorgias. a reference to the conversation of Parmenides ² and perhaps Plato is thus signaling to his readers that they should bring to bear on Sophistthe lessons that are to be drawn from Parmenides. Euthydemus. one preceding the other. in its opening pages. he linksSophist with Theaetetus (the conversations they present have a largely overlapping cast of characters. it would be wildly implausible to suppose that Plato's writing career began with such complex works as Laws. there is. introductory works whose primary purpose is to show readers the difficulty of apparently simple philosophical problems. it remains a matter of dispute whether the division of Plato's works into three periods ² early. of course. Moreover.) Even so. late ² is a useful tool for the understanding of his thought. Plato makes it clear that both of these processes. Parmenides. or Ion (for example). One of his deepest methodological convictions (affirmed . But there is no consensus that they should be read in this way. (Similarly. as yet. setting this group off from all that preceded them. Hippias Major among them.Apology does not advance a complex philosophical agenda or presuppose an earlier body of work. Sophist contains. It could be argued. and take place on successive days) no less than Sophist and Statesman. no agreement among students of Plato that these six form a distinctive stage in his philosophical development. So.of all of the other dialogues. Plato does nothing to encourage the reader to view these works as a distinctive and separate component of his thinking. one finds significant philosophical changes in the six late dialogues. must be part of one's philosophical education. Timaeus opens with a reminder of some of the principal doctrines of Republic. Phaedrus. Protagoras.
At any rate. We should not assume that Plato could have written the preparatory dialogues only at the earliest stage of his career. for example.in Meno. and that is why it is essential that they come to no positive conclusions. Although he may well have begun his writing career by taking up that sort of project. But it is an open question which and how many of them are. which are generally assumed to be compositions of his middle period ² or even later. though certainly not an early dialogue. some of the works widely considered to be early really are such. its principal effect on the reader is similar to that of dialogues (many of them no doubt early) that reach only negative conclusions. others are contributions to theory-construction. and like many of those early works. some of his dialogues are primarily devices for breaking down the reader's complacency. So it is clear that even after he was well beyond the earliest stages of his thinking. Theaetetus.) . we must work our way through problems and assess the merits of competing theories with an independent mind. at the same time that he was composing his theory-constructing dialogues. they might have been written around the same time as Symposiumand Republic. andCrito sets out the conditions under which a citizen acquires an obligation to obey civic commands. For example although both Euthydemus andCharmides are widely assumed to be early dialogues. and are therefore best absorbed by those who have already passed through the first stage of philosophical development. so too we should not overlook the fact that there is some substantive theory-construction in the ethical works that are simple enough to have been early compositions: Ion. Parmenides. (And. affirms a theory of poetic inspiration. since it does not tell us how it is possible to accept all of those conclusions. it is clear that Plato continued to write in a ³Socratic´ and ³negative´ vein even after he was well beyond the earliest stages of his career: Theaetetus features a Socrates who is even more insistent upon his ignorance than are the dramatic representations of Socrates in briefer and philosophically less complex works that are reasonably assumed to be early. and leaving the contradiction unresolved ² in Protagoras (often considered an early dialogue) as well. is a work whose principal aim is to puzzle the reader by the presentation of arguments for apparently contradictory conclusions. Plato uses this educational device ² provoking the reader through the presentation of opposed arguments. Theaetetus seeks but does not find the answer to the ³what is it?´ question that it relentlessly pursues ² ³What is knowledge?´ Similarly. Accordingly. Neither ends in failure. he continued to assign himself the project of writing works whose principal aim is the presentation of unresolved difficulties. No doubt. and Sophist) is that in order to make intellectual progress we must recognize that knowledge cannot be acquired by passively receiving it from others: rather. just as we should recognize that puzzling the reader continues to be his aim even in later works. he may have continued writing these ³negative´ works at later stages.
whom to love. the place of pleasure.If we are justified in taking Socrates' speech in Plato's Apology to constitute reliable evidence about what the historical Socrates was like. in Laws. So understood. at the point where these speakers enter the dialogue. or cosmological. he turns to Timaeus.) When the doctrines he wishes to present systematically become primarily metaphysical. In effect. that none of what is said here is in any way derived from or inspired by the conversation of Socrates. (The political aspects of Republic are explicitly said to serve the larger question whether any individual. This may be part of the explanation why he has Socrates put into the mouth of the personified Laws of Athens the theory advanced in Crito. when they become cosmological. and Plato's way of choosing the dominant speaker of his dialogues gives further support to this way of distinguishing between him and Socrates. Plato thinks that it is appropriate to make Socrates the major speaker in a dialogue that is filled with positive content only when the topics explored in that work primarily have to do with the ethical life of the individual. andPhilebus. Republic. he turns. having such ideas. when they become constitutional. no longer to write one kind of dialogue (negative. That fits with Aristotle's testimony. The number of dialogues that are dominated by a Socrates who is spinning out elaborate philosophical doctrines is remarkably small: Phaedo. so we should also question whether he went through an early stage during which he refrained from introducing into his works any of his own ideas (if he had any). Statesman). representing to his readers the life and thought of Socrates. then whatever we find in Plato's other works that is of a piece with that speech can also be safely attributed to Socrates. no matter what his circumstances. to a visitor from Athens (and he then eliminates Socrates entirely). preparatory) and to write only works of elaborate theory-construction. would have decided to . All of them are dominated by ethical issues: whether to fear death. Phaedrus. destructive. Just as we should reject the idea that Plato must have made a decision. he turns to a visitor from Elea (Sophist. or political themes. Evidently. whether to be just. Plato is showing us: although he owes a great deal to the ethical insights of Socrates. as well as to his method of puncturing the intellectual pretensions of his interlocutors by leading them into contradiction. who probably began to write dialogues somewhere in his thirties (he was around 28 when Socrates was killed). It is unrealistic to suppose that someone as original and creative as Plato. Perhaps Plato is indicating. which reaches the conclusion that it would be unjust for him to escape from prison. would have started his compositions with no ideas of his own. should be just. at a fairly early point in his career. or. because Socrates refrained from entering these domains. but was content to play the role of a faithful portraitist. Socrates was a moralist but (unlike Plato) not a metaphysician or epistemologist or cosmologist. he thinks he should not put into the mouth of his teacher too elaborate an exploration of ontological.
pre-supposes that there must have been some such once-and-for-all decision. But what of the various philosophical moves rehearsed in Euthyphro ² the dialogue in which Socrates searches. as he made his way to court). unsuccessfully. he made a conscious decision to put all of the compositions that he would henceforth compose for a general reading public (with the exception of Apology) in the form of a dialogue. by Plato's reflections on and transformations of the key themes of Socrates that he attributes to Socrates in Apology. That speech indicates. that the kind of religiosity exhibited by Socrates was unorthodox and likely to give offense or lead to misunderstanding. developed.) But the twists and turns of the arguments in Euthyphro and other dialogues that search for definitions are more likely to be the products of Plato's mind than the content of a conversation that really took place. The idea that it is important to search for definitions may have been Socratic in origin. It is more likely that Plato. ³why did Plato write dialogues?´. as Platonic inventions ² derived. Why dialogues? It is equally unrealistic to suppose that when Plato embarked on his career as a writer. or something close to it (changing a word here and there. which many of his readers are tempted to ask. for example. or Symposium. or Laws) in the form of a dialogue ² and that one (Timaeus. a series of questions and answers designed to show his readers how difficult it is to reach an understanding of the central concept that Socrates' fellow citizens relied upon when they condemned him to death. then it is poorly posed. but for the most part simply recalling what he heard Socrates say. were one to attempt to re-write this work in a way that eliminated the give-and-take of interchange. stripped the characters of their . or Republic. Aristotle attributes this much to Socrates. for some period of time. on his own. allowing himself to think for himself only later.suppress them. It makes better sense to break that question apart into many little ones: better to ask. even those that are likely to be early. (After all. having been inspired by the unorthodoxy of Socrates' conception of piety. (What would have led to such a decision?) We should instead treat the moves made in the dialogues. no doubt. 12. If the question. for an understanding of what piety is? We have no good reason to think that in writing this work Plato adopted the role of a mere recording device. say) mostly in the form of a long and rhetorically elaborate single speech?´ than to ask why he decided to adopt the dialogue form. It would be implausible to suppose that Plato simply concocted the idea that Socrates followed a divine sign. The best way to form a reasonable conjecture about why Plato wrote any given work in the form of a dialogue is to ask: what would be lost. ³Why did Plato write this particular work (for example: Protagoras.
will be present in all other cases. so far as we can guess at them. Rather than impose on our reading of Plato a uniform expectation of what he must be doing (because he has done such a thing elsewhere). and transformed the result into something that comes straight from the mouth of its author? This is often a question that will be easy to answer. the use of character and conversation allows an author to enliven his work. how it is possible for the citizens of Athens. But Socrates does not always speak ironically. In some of his works. Even treatise-like compositions ² Timaeus and Laws. In pursuing this strategy. but the answer might vary greatly from one dialogue to another. as he demonstrates. and portions of Meno (are some people virtuous because of divine inspiration?). Furthermore. though to a smaller degree: for example. Protagoras (can virtue be taught?).personality and social markers. Hippias Minor (is voluntary wrongdoing better than involuntary wrongdoing?). because here Plato relentlessly rubs his readers' faces in a baffling series of unresolved puzzles and apparent contradictions. Just as someone who encounters Socrates in conversation should sometimes be puzzled about whether he means what he says (or whether he is instead speaking ironically). we should bring to each dialogue a receptivity . and similarly Plato's dialogues do not always aim at creating a sense of bafflement about what we are to think about the subject under discussion. There is no mechanical rule for discovering how best to read a dialogue. The enormous appeal of Plato's writings is in part a result of their dramatic composition. it is evident that one of Plato's goals is to create a sense of puzzlement among his readers. we must not rule out the possibility that some of Plato's reasons for writing this or that work in the form of a dialogue will also be his reason for doing so in other cases ² perhaps some of his reasons. and therefore to reach a wider audience. and Crete to learn from each other by adapting and improving upon each other's social and political institutions. We will best understand Plato's works and profit most from our reading of them if we recognize their great diversity of styles and adapt our reading habits accordingly. for example ² improve in readability because of their conversational frame. Sparta. the dialogue form allows Plato's evident interest in pedagogical questions (how is it possible to learn? what is the best way to learn? from what sort of person can we learn? what sort of person is in a position to learn?) to be pursued not only in the content of his compositions but also in their form. to awaken the interest of his readership. and that the dialogue form is being used for this purpose. so Plato sometimes uses the dialogue form to create in his readers a similar sense of discomfort about what he means and what we ought to infer from the arguments that have been presented to us. But several of his other works also have this character. The Parmenides is perhaps the clearest example of such a work. Even in Laws such questions are not far from Plato's mind. For example. no interpretive strategy that applies equally well to all of his works. through the dialogue form.
Bibliography Translations into English y Cooper.). Plato: Complete Works.to what is unique in each of them. That would be the most fitting reaction to the artistry in his philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett. . John M. 1997. (ed.
. due to their antiquity and the manner of their preservation through time. moral psychology. according to which the world we know through the senses is only an imitation of the pure. These works blend ethics. and are mere illusions. including his most famous work. however.C. he was also influenced by Heraclitus. and unchanging world of the Forms. Nonetheless. Parmenides. We also are introduced to the ideal of ³Platonic love:´ Plato saw love as motivated by a longing for the highest Form of beauty²The Beautiful Itself. It is most of all from Plato that we get the theory of Forms. and in what order they were written.E. and he wrote in the middle of the fourth century B. the Republic. There are varying degrees of controversy over which of Plato¶s works are authentic. in ancient Greece. Plato¶s works also contain the origins of the familiar complaint that the arts work by inflaming the passions. where the main character in effect speaks for Plato himself. eternal. and metaphysics into an interconnected and systematic philosophy. to the extent that Socrates is usually the main character in many of Plato¶s writings. his earliest works are generally regarded as the most reliable of the ancient sources on Socrates. and the character Socrates that we know through these writings is considered to be one of the greatest of the ancient philosophers. Though influenced primarily by Socrates.Plato (427²347 BCE) Plato Plato is one of the world¶s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers. and thePythagoreans. Plato¶s middle to later works. Because they tended to distract us into accepting less than our highest potentials. and love as the motivational power through which the highest of achievements are possible. Plato mistrusted and generally advised against physical expressions of love. political philosophy. epistemology. are generally regarded as providing Plato¶s own philosophy. He was the student of Socrates and the teacher ofAristotle.
all gods. the Conflagration. 300 . Justice. 5. That everyone has a personal. Vice the sole evil.) Philosophy 1. 9. beyond the power of opinion. That the Cardinal Virtues are Prudence. worldly Nature and human nature. and everything else indifferent. 2. all substance. That Virtue is the sole good. individual connection to the All. all virtue. 3. The sequential reabsorption and recreation of the Universe by the Central Fire. 10. That the external world is maintained by the natural interchange of opposites (poioun / yin. 11. paskhon / yang) 4.C. That the path to personal happiness and inner peace is through the extinguishing of all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future.Zeno (Zeno of Citium. . 7. 6. and Temperance. That spiritual growth comes from seeking the good. Simple Living through moderation and frugality. The Unity of All. That every soul has Free Will to act and that the action of the soul is opinion.260 B. 8. all mankind into a Cosmopolis (Universal City). a god within. One to live in accord with Nature. Fortitude.
not corrupt. Viewing the human mind as infinite in its capacity (as the benevolent gift of God). Comenius urged all people to recognize the interconnections and harmony among philosophical. one could reconcile three seemingly distinct worlds: the natural. Comenius felt that disagreements among religious. and political facts and ideas. as he believed in the immanence of God and the imminence of God's kingdom on Earth. but one cannot gain an adequate appreciation of his educational ideas without recognizing his religious and metaphysical convictions. social. Works . and the divine. Comenius believed that true knowledge could be found in things as they existed in reality and when one came to understand how they came about. John Amos (1592±1670) Contributions Comenius is best known for his innovations in pedagogy. Comenius also felt that Christ's Second Coming would end human strife but that people themselves could act in ushering the new millennium by engaging in pansophy. the human. scientific. an early advocate of the inductive method of scientific inquiry. Comenius characterized human life±from the mother's womb to grave±as a series of educational stages in which objects from nature would serve as the basis of learning. humans were necessarily good. Specifically. pansophy would eliminate human prejudice and lead to human perfection±a state of being that God had intended for man. Comenius advocated universal education so that the souls of all people would be enlightened in this fashion.Comenius. As a result. As God's creations. In this. or the lifelong study of an encyclopedic system of human knowledge. and philosophic enterprises arose because each held only a partial understanding of universal truth±but that all could exist harmoniously through pansophic awareness. That way. By seeing the harmony among everything in the universe. Through universal education and pedagogy. Despite the prevalent human suffering of his day. all human beings would come to acknowledge God's glory and presence in themselves and in nature. Comenius remained optimistic about the future of mankind. he was influenced by the writings of the English statesman Sir Francis Bacon. theological. scientific.
which he originally wrote in 1632. Comenius argued that the acquisition of new material began through the senses±an idea that reflected the rise of empiricism in the seventeenth century. Comenius was one of the first educators to recommend a coherent and standard system of instruction. he reasoned that a good man (a rational being who understood God through nature). teachers needed to identify their students' stages of development and match the level of instruction accordingly.Perhaps Comenius's most familiar work is the Great Didactic. As Comenius held the conviction that pansophy was necessary for the spiritual salvation of humankind. Delineating four levels of schools lasting six years each. Comenius suggested that the universality of nature dictated that all people shared common stages of intellectual development. he reasoned. Furthermore. In order to guarantee that this would occur. Comenius delineated a universal teaching method or standard set of pedagogical postulates that would facilitate an effective communication of knowledge between the teacher and student. could only be created if all people acquired encyclopedic knowledge. Indeed. and ultimately a good society. . Lessons should proceed from easy to complex at a slow and deliberate pace. As a result.
opening is coming to a conclusion after weighing the evidence. plain. p.not imagination the best instance of knowing is intuiting . 16) Acquiring knowledge frequently establishes a habit of doing so -satisfying natural curiosity frequently establishes the habit of loving and esteeming all learning. measurable. THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? A lie? Knowledge is publicly verifiable. 20) II. like good character. to treat our possessions and persons responsibly. Pursuit of truth is a duty we owe to God and ourselves. and to avoid coming under the absolute control of others (Yolton. Mistakes and lies would be a lack of evidence and defiance of evidence.may be four sorts: identity or diversity. p.JOHN LOCKE I. co-existence and real existence Knowing is an infallible intuition. His education philosophy is an effort to show how democratic constitutional monarchy might be preserved and improved (Deighton. 347) . The goal of education is the welfare and prosperity of the nation -Locke conceived the nations's welfare and prosperity in terms of the personal happiness and social usefulness of its citizens. relation. . p. demonstrable facts . but without certainty. is a set of mental habits rather than a body of belief Knowledge is limited to imperfections of ideas we have. Education for Locke provides the character formation necessary for becoming a person and for being a responsible citizen. we can have probable knowledge even when we can't have certain knowledge Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas (Hutchins. THEORY OF VALUE: What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of Education? The skill and knowledge needed to order our actions in accordance with the laws of nature.by intuiting is meant a power which the mind possesses of apprehending truth Knowledge.
III. poor children of both sexes between the ages of 3-14 should be compelled to attend school with "teachers" Locke attacked ordinary method of teaching . Methods for poor .manners learned by example. but without them it produces only the more foolish or worse men From infancy onwards.man is endowed with natural rights such as life. P. according to Locke Learning is the last and least part of education.humans have no innate ideas of God. the child's efforts toward bodily pleasure and toward power in possessions and over others should be thoroughly frustrated. p. The result will be that habits of self-centered. not without justice. no innate moral truths. 83). For working classes. to arouse and then rely on desires. Learning is a great help to virtue and wisdom. Learning should be superintended by a tutor assisted by genuinely interested parents. latin learned by speaking. Man could be ruled and be free . for gentlemen . handicrafts and agricultural skills. THEORY OF HUMAN NATURE What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential? Man becomes moral through education . Curriculum for the poor: focus on regular worship for sake of religion and moral improvement.Locke defined man as both rational and moral Man is subject to the rule of natural law which was ultimately God's law made known to man through the voice of reason Locke's denial of innate ideas put a premium on individual effort. THEORY OF TRANSMISSION Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be? The goal of the gentlemen's education cannot be achieved by sending him to a school. on the labor necessary to gain knowledge from experience (Tarcov. The best way to get men to do what is wanted is not t terrify or force them but to motivate them.bring pupil to practice the activities of the gentlemanly ideal until they become habitual.. THEORY OF LEARNING What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired? The learning that gentlemen should possess is general. liberty and property (Cranston. while letting them think.the .may have intended that young should learn to read. Skills and knowledge are acquired by example and practice instead of charging of children's memories with rules and principals Unconscious habits are bred by practice and manners learned by example V. vocational arts .learn by practice. write and do math but made no statements to that effect Curriculum for gentlemen: health . no natural inclination of virtue . aggressive behavior and of preferring ignorance to learning will not become established. that they are acting for their own sakes and of their own free will. 12) IV.
literature of France and England. The welfare and prosperity of the nation demand that children of the propertied class be educated in a way quite different from children of the poor. Both gentlemen and workingmen ought to be personally happy and socially useful. In one sense all the agreements are violations. . language and literature (Greek for scholars only) . and 3) capacity of reason .from # 1 & 2 . Locke believed that the daughters of gentlemen should be education in much the same way as their sons Children of the poor class should be kept away from schools . The government must perform its part in the social contract . the second of workingmen. The mind perceives the agreement between our idea and itself.consisting of three groups of habits . the arts should occupy a minor place -which Locke considered a useless or dangerous thing Learning -that gentlemen should possess is general. The mind also perceives a violation between its ideas. white is white and not black). be prudent. reflective and calculatory instead of being moved by impulse. development of good character . THEORY OF OPPORTUNITY Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?The citizens of the nation fall into two kinds: those who posses property to some significant degree and those who do not. The family's duty being slowly to awaken the child to virtue. THEORY OF SOCIETY What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process? Men once lived in a state of natural anarchy but had banded together to form political society Men entrusted power to rulers on the condition that natural rights were respected by rulers. the natural and social sciences.even the best .right to life and liberty. for an agreement is a violation. use own power of reason. but since they occupy different stations in society. 2) necessity for labor. VI. laws devised from the laws of nature which are God's laws VII. Natural rights and natural law are rooted in edicts of God which were inalienable Men possess these traits: 1) natural freedom . THEORY OF CONSENSUS Why do people disagree? How is the consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence? Wrong doing is a sign of ignorance.f lows right of property in things which is chief factor in foundation of society The child enters both a family and a nation.to preserve the rights to life and liberty of all the citizens Each of these communities should be guided by moral laws. people should be enlightened. writing and arithmetic. The f first group is made up of gentlemen. detailed learning is only for those who would become scholars.virtue. their happiness and usefulness must differ. wisdom and breeding. one should know in detail what is directly useful in managing personal affairs. and a disagreement in this respect between it and all others (for example. to include reading.because they would fall into the company of undesirables VIII. Latin.first ingredient of personal happiness.
educators need to focus on the human being. In other words. In another words. he argued that young children should learn through experience²through physical activity and through concrete experiences with objects. education provides the means for general development of the whole society." On the social level. are also important.Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi Pestalozzi¶s principles of education are predominantly expressed in his seminal work How Gertrude Teaches her Children. as well as emotional development.e. therefore. He stressed that there should be balance between the head. not just their intellect. the more the individuals in a society develop intellectually. morally. His ideas can be summarized under the following three topics: Goal of Education The goal of education is not to impart knowledge. In it. but to unfold the natural faculties latent and hidden in every human being. educators should strive to educate the whole child. i. Since knowledge lies within human beings. and heart. and not through the world of words by studying books. and socially through education. physical and technical education (hands). a person becomes a "whole man. emotionally. the more educated and regenerated the whole society becomes. On the individual level. education plays a central role in the improvement of society. not the curriculum. Physical or technical knowledge. Through developing a balance among these three areas. Pestalozzi presented two general purposes of education: for development of the individual and for the improvement of society. Method of Education Pestalozzi asserted that education should be centered on the child. hands. a child. For Pestalozzi. and moral and religious education (heart). and not on education per se. the purpose of teaching is to find the way to unfold that . between intellectual knowledge (head).
Nothing is better than a direct sensory experience. The atmosphere must be loving and caring. He also advocated spontaneity and self-activity. Pestalozzi expanded the elementary school curriculum to include geography. Thus. Teachers should not teach through words (giving children ready-made answers). to correct its own mistakes. as only serving to alienate children from the teachers.hidden knowledge. in contrast to the rigid. in which the child first learns to observe. He developed the idea of the ³family classroom´ from the way his mother raised him and his sister. natural science. but allow children to discover answers themselves. fine art. as was commonly used in schools at that time. teachercentered. Pestalozzi recommended that children use no books. and music. Family is thus. and builds toward more complex and abstract things. and earn the trust of the children. neither the physical nor the intellectual powers will develop naturally" (Smith 2005). for Pestalozzi. Based on this assumption. Pestalozzi advocated direct experience as the best method to accomplish this. where the family members are cooperative. and to analyze and describe the object of inquiry. in early education. like in a good Christian family. Pestalozzi suggested that teachers always need to be loving and kind. and kind to one another. He advocated an inductive method. natural development. He believed that "without love. Discipline in the classroom Pestalozzi maintained that the classroom should be like a family. and curriculum-based methods used in other schools. particularly in areas of morality and ethics. Only after that can the child start to use books. but rather learn through direct experience. In order to allow children to obtain more experience from nature. . He viewed harsh discipline. loving. The child starts with simple objects and simple observation. Pestalozzi said "There can be no doubt that within the living room of every household are united the basic elements of all true human education in its whole range" (Smith 2005). and thus prevent their normal. an essential component of education.
According to Dewey good education should have both a societal purpose and purpose for the individual student. Dewey argues that educators must first understand the nature of human experience. . For Dewey. On the other hand.[ John Dewey For John Dewey. Interaction refers to the situational influence on one's experience. ordered. the long-term matters. relatively structured. therefore. one's present experience is a function of the interaction between one's past experiences and the present situation. but so does the short-term quality of an educational experience. he argues. Dewey argues that we must move beyond this paradigm war. progressive education. The paradigm war still goes on -. For example. disciplined. free. Dewey criticizes traditional education for lacking in holistic understanding of students and designing curricula overly focused on content rather than content and process which is judged by its contribution to the well-being of individuals and society. is too reactionary and takes a free approach without really knowing how or why freedom can be most useful in education. my experience of a lesson. Continuity is that each experience a person has will influence his/her future.on the one hand.continuity and interaction. student-directed progressive education. for better or for worse. Dewey polarizes two extremes in education -.traditional and progressive education. In other words. for providing students with experiences that are immediately valuable and which better enable the students to contribute to society. education and democracy are intimately connected. Freedom for the sake of freedom is a weak philosophy of education. Dewey's theory is that experience arises from the interaction of two principles -. Thus. relatively unstructured. will depend on how the teacher arranges and facilitates the lesson. Educators are responsible. didactic tradition education vs. as well my past experience of similar lessons and teachers. and to do that we need a theory of experience.
there is a strong emphasis on the subjective quality of a student's experience and the necessity for the teacher of understanding the students' past experiences in order to effectively design a sequence of liberating educational experiences to allow the person to fulfil their potential as a member of society. Dewey examines his theory of experience in light of practical educational problems. and the extent to which the individual is able to contribute to society. what may be a rewarding experience for one person.It is important to understand that. Throughout. Thus. Dewey says that once we have a theory of experience. their future. and then provides them with experiences which will help to open up. discipline to use. Dewey shows that his theory of experience (continuity and interaction) can be useful guides to help solving such issues. no experience has pre-ordained value. . for Dewey. thereby expanding the person's likely contribution to society. such as the debate between how much freedom vs. rather than shut down. The value of the experience is to be judged by the effect that experience has on the individual's present. could be a detrimental experience for another. a person's access to future growth experiences. then as educators can set about progressively organizing our subject matter in a way that it takes accounts of students' past experiences.
). trees. This leads to a simple deduction of the wave structure of matter in Space which then deduces the fundamentals of physics (without any opinions). Quantum Theory. 2. The reasoning is simple. could be alleged by the sceptics capable of shaking it. I concluded that I might.. sun.but they all seem to exist in one common space. as he would then likely have solved the problems of philosophy / knowledge.. accept it as the first principle of the philosophy of which I was in search.e. Thus three things seem to exist in an interconnected way. As I see things. including other thinking things (other humans). I think I exist as a material body in space and that I can see and interact with other material things in the space around me. stars. i) Many thinking minds (of which I am certain of my own).e. hence I am.Rene Descartes I think. i. I do find it strange though that many people now seem to reject Descartes argument that we cannot doubt our thinking minds exist. There are many minds and material things .Albert Einstein's Relativity and Cosmology. It is strange that Descartes did not further pursue this line of reasoning. was so certain and of such evidence. i. that no ground of doubt. iii) One common Space (that these many minds and material things exist in). houses. . 1.they take the idea that . postmodernism has become so skeptical that people even doubt that they exist as thinking things . earth. without scruple. ii) Many material things (people. 3. The complete argument is on the Truth Statements on Physical Realitypage. 'Cogito Ergo Sum' . cars. From this there is only one way to describe reality if we abide by the rules of simplicity (Occam's Razor) and metaphysics (necessary connection).I think therefore I exist (a thinking thing exists). however extravagant.
Let us assume that we do not know reality. The certain truth is the personal / subjective truth (what we experience with our minds) not the objective truth (that the tree actually exists). "I experience seeing a tree.language is metaphor to illogical extremes." But of course this does not mean the tree necessarily exist. For example we can say. Thus any statement you make about the external world is uncertain.the solution to metaphysics(substance and its properties). there is one and only one exception to this.as we must first think to doubt. This cannot be doubted . This is discussed more on the Friedrich Nietzsche page. Thus all we can say with certainty is "I experience seeing a tree so this experience of the tree exists." However. David Hume explains this problem of causation and necessary connection very well.by correctly imagining what exists . I experience thinking thus thinking things exist.space . .the one thing that we all commonly experience existing in as one thing. Thus we can be certain that we exist as thinking things. by solving metaphysics . What is most interesting is how we solve this.
are treated as complementary facets of a single program of learning. Steiner schooling strives to support the development of well rounded human beings who are able to feel deeply and broadly. and quite possibly the fastest growing. allows them to go into the world with confidence. Steiner designed a curriculum that is responsive to the developmental phases of childhood and the nurturing of the child¶s imagination in a school environment. Waldorf schools collectively form the largest. poems. fairy stories. Steiner thought that schools should cater to the needs of the child rather than the demands of the government or economic forces. music and games that are part of our world civilisation. The academic. . music and other subjects. arithmetic. histories. science. or µhead. heart & hands¶. geography. so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking. to think penetratingly and clearly. This creates the cultural atmosphere in which the children are taught reading. each is administratively independent. and promote the movement. and language to develop the feelings. publish materials. They provide a balanced approach to the modern school curriculum. and then to act rightly out of conscious and free choice. but there are established associations which provide resources. There is no centralised administrative structure governing all Waldorf schools. artistic and social aspects. group of independent private schools in the world. The unique quality of human beings is our capacity for conscious thought. This is implemented by using art as a practice. The best overall statement on what is unique about Steiner education is to be found in the stated goals of the schooling: What is Waldorf Education? Waldorf education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practiced in Waldorf schools worldwide. aiming to enable each stage of growth to be fully and vividly enjoyed and experienced. nature study.Waldorf Steiner Philosophy Steiner schools have a unique and distinctive approach to educating children. languages. His teaching seeks to recognise the individuality of the child and through a balanced education. writing. by nourishing the children with the rich heritage of wise folk tales. sponsor conferences. allowing each to throw light on the others.
challenging task requiring deep understanding of ethical principles. the nature of the knowing mind and the human subject. and economics. because it is a product of philosophers who. The philosophy of education recognizes that the enterprise of civil society depends on the education of the young. aesthetics. disconnected from philosophy (by being insufficiently rigorous for the tastes of many "real" philosophers) and from the broader study and practice of education (by being too philosophical. and who have also provided powerful critical perspectives revealing the problems in education as it has been practiced in various historical circumstances.Philosophy of education Philosophy of education is the study of such questions as what education is and what its purpose is. For example. seeking to establish or preserve democracy. who have contributed in large part to our basic understandings of what education is and can be. . Plato undertakes to discuss all these elements in The Republic. There are certain key voices in philosophy of education. philosophy of education has been linked to greater or lesser degrees to theories of human development. and that to educate children as responsible. its proponents state that is is an exacting and critical branch of philosophy and point out that there are few major philosophers who have not written on education. etc. Since at least Rousseau. However. moral values. Critics have accused the philosophy of education of being one the weakest subfields of both philosophy and education. too theoretical). and who do not consider the philosophy of education a necessity. turn to education as a method of choice. which may be identified as the "Democratic Tradition". thoughtful and enterprising citizens is an intricate. not to mention an understanding of who children are. beginning the formulation of educational philosophy that endures today. political theory. problems of authority. the relationship between education and society. in themselves and in society. There is one particular strand in educational philosophy that stands out as of extreme importance in the present time.