The Apology of Socrates by Plato
Among early works by Plato, the Apology of Socrates is essential. It consists of three speeches that Socrates pronounced at the trial arranged for him by the Athenian democrats, which ended with a death sentence for the great philosopher. The word ‘apologia’ literally means justification. Thus, the Apology of Socrates posthumously acquits the accusations against Socrates.
In the first part of the speech, Plato talks about his former and current prosecutors that have spread fabrications that Socrates deals with philosophical problems and makes people believe in a lie. However, Socrates claims that he sees nothing reprehensible in the study of philosophical problems, he finds education useful, and he does not take a fee for it (Plato & Burnet, 1998). Also, Socrates argues that many of the revered citizens dislike him because he shows their ignorance in that field where they consider themselves the most knowledgeable.
According to Paul Strathern (2004), the Apology of Socrates is commendable from the literary point of view. Plato considered the verdict to death of the majestic thinker as pathetic. Truly, Plato draws attention to the power of anger among the uncritically-minded fellow citizens that perceive Socrates as the constant critic and debunker of hypocrisy and lies. Strathern (2004) argues that the main argument against any assertions often appears as the denial of the last. For example, the accusers of Socrates claim that he engaged in the natural philosophy. Meanwhile, Socrates insists on the opposite. Scarcely it can be considered as a logical argument since a simple denial of fact is not proof of its absence. Throughout Apology, Socrates constantly and persistently declares that he always fights injustice. Hence, Socrates’s philosophy is a fight for state prosperity.
It is necessary to mention that the main themes of Socrates’s philosophy, as well as his original and acute question-response method, are not represented in the Apology. Except for some places, where Socrates mentally enters into a conversation and uses such terms as God, virtue, evil, vice, and wisdom, he does not give a philosophical explanation (Pappas, 2003). However, the details do not drop the image of the dignified and devoted servant of the truth. Socrates’s vital power breaks a purely logical argument and has a huge philosophical and moral value.
The Parable of the Cave by Plato
The myth of the cave is a famous allegory used by Plato in his treatise the Republic for explaining his teaching. It is the cornerstone of platonism and objective idealism. The myth presented as a dialogue between Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon.
The myth tells the story of people who live in the cave. Their chains do not allow them to turn to the light or look around. People can see only the front. The free people carry household and luxury items behind the cave’s wall. The prisoners cannot see the objects, but only their shadows. They examine shadows and give them names, but the real appearance, color, and the essence of the objects are beyond their reach. They can hear sounds and mistakenly attribute them to the shadows. Thus, people do not see the true objects, but only their shadows and create understanding.
According to Plato (1992), the cave represents the sensory world. People believe that they know true reality through the sense organs. Life is an illusion and people reach merely dim shadows from the real world of ideas. Therefore, a philosopher can get a comprehensive view of the world of ideas, constantly asking questions and looking for answers. However, it is unnecessary to share the knowledge with people who are not able to break away from the everyday illusions of perception.
Daryl Rice expounds (1998) on the parable; learning requires incessant efforts to understand certain subjects. Indeed, only philosophers can rule in the ideal city as people who entered the essence of the ideas. According to Plato (1992), the main thing available under the condition is that people escape from the captivity of the sensual world. Therefore, the perfect idealistic myth asserts the illusory nature of reality that devalues bodily sensations of faith into a transcendence world.
The Historical Context of Plato’s Ideas
The turbulent political life of Greece contributed to the flourishing of theoretical thought and prompted the search for a perfect government system. The general philosophical doctrines started to develop in the framework of political and legal concepts. Thus, the works by Plato are the pinnacle of political thought development in Greece.
The formation of the democratic republic is a huge historical achievement of the ancient Greeks. Perennial wars undermined the democratic structure of the state. During the reign of Pericles, Athens was close to uniting Greece. The idea failed and the protracted thirty-year war made people frustrated. People considered Sparta as the leader after the fall of Athens. Soon it became clear that the Spartans also could not help them (Reeve, 2013). People understood that the war between the Greeks is the greatest evil, but they did not know how to stop it. Thus, people did not believe in a fair government and were looking for a leader.
Meanwhile, Plato gives politicians an action guide. He explains the distress of the state to the people’s ignorance, bad habits of the responsible politicians, and lack of care for the society’s affairs (Voegelin & Germino, 2000). The government degrades into tyranny and mob power. Plato sought to be useful to the state, but his attempts to teach the rulers invariably failed. A philosopher concluded that ignorance is the main evil of the state.
Plato, like many of his contemporaries, thinks that the role of democracy in Athens atrophied. Everyone thinks to be able to govern a democratic society. According to Plato (1992), people must play different social roles. The main goal of the state is the education of a person. Therefore, the conflict does not appear among the educated citizens, because they comprehend the good, duty, and justice.
The Relation of Plato’s Ideas to the Previous Cultures
Plato’s contemporaries argued that he borrowed the principles of the ideal state in Sparta and Egypt that were not perfect. According to Runciman (2010), Plato’s state is merely the Athenian idealization of the Egyptian caste system. Indeed, Plato argues that the state is the destiny of gods based on some needs that people can only meet collectively and the division of labor. Thus, Plato calls not for the creation of the fantastic social project, but the revival of the existing natural state. Similar to the Egyptian caste-based structure of the state, Plato divides the country into three groups of citizens that include philosophers, warriors, and craftsmen (Runciman, 2010). The philosopher places the perfect man who comprehended the universe in the center of the state. Thus, it is also similar to Ancient Egypt’s feature, where Pharaoh ruled as the human embodiment of God on the earth.
Also, the prototype of the ideal state system for Plato was aristocratic Sparta, or rather, its conserved patriarchal relations. The organization of the ruling class is based on the model of the military camp, the remnants of communal ownership, and group marriage. Plato describes the state of timocracy as in Sparta, the designation of government where state authority belonged to a privileged minority with a high property qualification. Thus, Plato describes the theory of total freedom, which is the freedom of the state in its integrity and indivisibility.
The Implications of Plato’s Ideas on Greek Society and the Future of Western Civilization
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Plato’s ideas have had a significant impact on Greek society. Instead of a dominant enthusiastic and aesthetic evaluation of the Greeks as a sample of humanity, a more sober and prosaic approach made the main object of study the phenomenon of the economic and socio-political life of the ancient world, not the deeds of legendary heroes and prominent historical figures (Reeve, 2013). Classical antiquity began to absorb the modern concepts of capital, the labor movement, and social democracy. Therefore, the interest in the economic and socio-political life of the ancient world increased attention to Plato’s teaching, especially to the question of the third class position in Plato’s ideal state.
The works by Plato contained the basis for the further development of socialist utopias and significantly influenced the whole course of Western civilization. Also, the State by Plato is considered one of the first communist utopias. According to Runciman (2010), there is a whole tradition in the literature represented by Robert Pellman, Georg Adler, and Karl Kautsky. They represent Plato as the ancient utopian communist, who has had a significant impact on the ideology of utopian socialism of the Renaissance and the Modern Age, and even Marxism.
Nowadays, Western scientists consider Plato as the founder of totalitarianism, a propagandist of the closed society (Voegenil & Germino, 2000). Paul Strathern (2004) argues a medieval society with its inferior class, a caste of warriors, and a powerful priesthood created a system similar to Plato’s Republic. The communism and fascism in their main features strongly remind his views. Thus, Plato’s philosophy is considered one of the greatest teachings of Western civilization. Although the ideas of Plato about the state were revised in history, they have had a huge impact on the political organization of future generations.
In conclusion, the Apology of Socrates and the Republic by Plato have influenced world history. Plato is a pioneer in the field of philosophical illumination of the vast range of legal and policy issues, and their development is marked by the seal of his creative genius. Plato is one of the whistleblowers and heroes of thought, who become eternal companions of mankind and new generations of people in their continuing quest for truth and justice, in the relentless pursuit of a more reasonable and perfect life.