Plato takes a significant place in the history of world culture. Despite the fact that he lived in the ancient Greek society, he belongs to all mankind as a philosopher, scientist, and writer. Plato is one of the founders of the philosophy. He created and developed one of the two main types of philosophical outlook, called philosophical idealism. This paper describes the philosophy of Plato and his contribution to the development of this science in general.
In his youth, Plato prepared himself to the employment policy;he devoted himself to literature and listened to the philosopher Cratylus, a follower of Heraclitus. But in about 407 BC, Plato found himself among the students of Socrates, and this event changed his destiny. He burned all that he had written before, gave up the dream of a political career, and decided to deal only with philosophy.
The doctrine created by Plato is multifaceted and extensive. It covers the issues on the nature and soul of man, knowledge, as well as the socio-political system, the language, and art (i.e. poetry, sculpture, painting, music of eloquence, and education). If the Greeks were the creators of test systems of philosophy, Plato created a test system of idealism.
The range of issues that make up the system occupied Plato’s mind so that he developed them not only as a philosopher but also as a scientist. These were the special problems of mathematics, astronomy, and musical acoustics.
Many facets of his talent are amazing. Plato is an outstanding philosopher combined with the scientist, artist, poet, and playwright. Plato expounded his philosophical and scientific ideas in literary works. He set out his ideas in the dialogues, which supplied the philosophical comedy and drama.
According to Plato, philosophy is the highest science that embodies the pure desire for truth. It is the only way to explore one’s self, God, and true happiness (Statham,2002). Itimplies to the philosophy of the sage, rational desire for the dead, abstract knowledge, and love. It is the attraction (Eros) to the highest mental welfare.
Like Socrates, Plato believed that the everyday experience gavepeople a distorted image of reality. Naively direct knowledge is wrong. It is possible to clarify its power through meditation and the application of the philosophical dialectic, which teaches to analyze, communicate, and classify confused sensory impressions by getting out of the indiscriminate mass general concept.
The main part of the philosophy of Plato that gave its name to the whole direction of philosophy is the doctrine of ideas – the existence of two worlds. The first world is the world of ideas and the second one is the world of things or forms. Ideas are types of things and their origins. Theylie at the heart of the whole set of things created from the formless. Ideas are the source of all; the very same matter cannot produce anything.
The world of ideas exists outside of time and space. In this world, there is a hierarchy, on top of which is the idea of the Good, from which derive all the others. The Good is identical to the Beauty, but at the same time,he is the beginning of all beginnings and the Creator of the Universe. In the myth of the cave, the Good is depicted as the sun, symbolizing the idea of creatures and objects that pass in front of the cave, and the cave itself is the image of the material world with its illusions.
Plato believed that the idea of any thing or creature is the most profound, intimate, and essential. The person performs the role of ideas of his/her immortal soul. Ideas have qualities of persistence, unity, and purity, while things have a quality of variability and multiplicity of distortion.
Plato wrote that the soul of man was represented in the form of a chariot rider and two horses – white and black. The driver stands for a reasonable start in man,while the white horse is the noblest and the highest qualities of the soul.The blackhorse, in its turn,represents passion, desire, and instinct beginning. When a person is in a different world, the driver is able to contemplate the gods with eternal truths. When a person is born again in the material world, the knowledge of these truths in his/her soul remains as a remembrance. Therefore, according to Plato, the only way for a man to know is to remember, to find things in the world of sense “reflections” of ideas (Statham,2002). When a man is able to see traces of ideas through the beauty, love, or just the case, the wings of the soul, once lost, again begin to grow.
Hence, the importance of the teachings of Plato lies inbeauty and the need to look for it in nature, people, art or law.According to him, when the soul gradually rises from the contemplation of physical beauty to the beauty of Sciences and Arts, and then to the beauty of the manners and customs, it is the best way for the soul to climb the “golden ladder” to the world of ideas.
The second force that is, at least, capable of transforming a man and lifting him/her to the world of the gods is Love. In general, the philosopher resembles Eros that also aims to achieve good.It is not wise or ignorant, but as an intermediary between one and the other, he does not have the beauty and goodness, for which he is committed to. Love seeks to achieve Good. It does not have the Beauty and the Good, and that is why it is committed to them.
The soul is the third significant ontological reality along with things and ideas. It acts as a medium between the sensible and the intelligible. Plato believed that the soul consisted of three parts: the lustful, passionate, and reasonable. Existing in sensual bodies, the body of the soul forms “combined entity” that is a living entity (by the word are meant animals and people). However, the souls of men are endowed with reason and, therefore, can explore the world of ideas if they take the necessary path of purification and education. The souls of animals (and plants) are mortal, while reasonable souls are immortal because, as described in Timaeus doctrine, they are created by God from the same composition as the immortal soul of the world. After the death, souls go to court and get an opportunity to choose a new life, the status of which will depend on the goodness or wickedness committed in their previous life.
The philosophy and love allow the birth of something beautiful; from the creation of beautiful things to beautiful ideas of law and justice. Plato wrote that people can get out of the “cave” in the light of ideas; the ability to see the light of the spiritual sun (i.e. contemplate the truth and think) is in everyone, but, unfortunately, people look in the wrong direction.
Plato also wrote about the teachings of the major parts of the human soul, each of which had its virtues.A reasonable part of the soul is wisdom as a virtue, while the longing beginning (of passions of the soul) has moderation and temperance, and the fierce spirit (which can be an ally of both the first and second) has the courage and ability to obey the reason. Together, these parts make up the virtues of justice (Statham,2002).Plato drew parallels between the parts of the soul and the types of people in the state, and called the justice in a country when everyone is in place and does what is the most capable.
Plato paid special attention to guards (soldiers) and education, which combined the two parts, spiritual and gymnastic. Gymnastic training allows subduing the passions to the reasonable start and developing the quality of faith. A spiritual education allows softening and subduing the fierce spirit of its laws of rhythm and harmony.
Since the basis of the teachings of Plato was philosophical idealism, it is quite natural that Plato always was an inspiration for thinkers who were prone to idealism. In the teachings of Plato, they saw a model for their own idealistic constructions and hypotheses.
Plato’s philosophy was the most important intellectual achievement of ancient times. Aristotle was brought up in the school founded by Plato, who along with him had a decisive influence on the development of Western European philosophy. The followers of Plato in the early and especially late period of the history of ancient philosophy (Platonism) were exemplary and important authors, the works of which still form the basis of philosophical education. Plato is one of the teachers of mankind. Were it not for his books, people would not understand who the ancient Greeks were and what they gave to the world. People would not understand the notions of philosophy, science, art, poetry, inspiration, human nature, the difficulty of the quest, and achievements.