Plato is among the most famous philosophers in history. This essay will look into Plato’s understanding of philosophy. He wrote about 35 works in conversational form, in which he discussed various topics, such as nature of virtue (Ethics), immortality, human-beings, and human mind (Metaphysics). None of the dialogues have Plato as a character, thus he does not proclaims his own views.
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Plato first mentions philosophy, “love for wisdom”, in the Phaedrus, a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus. Plato’s theory of love, later referred as “Platonic love”, is presented in the Symposium and the Phaedrus, his middle dialogues. It was Plato who introduced the image of two lovers as being two halves of a whole. At the same time Plato clearly disregards any physical and sexual contact between lovers, calling it useless and primitive form of erotic expression. He claims that unless the power of love is based on “higher pursuits” it will always result in frustration. I agree with this point, but find the idea of physical love being a waste very confusing.
The Symposium reflects some traditions and beliefs of his epoch. Some of the viewpoints serve as a basis of Western philosophy about love. It gives some historical information about the symposia, which were commonly practiced among educated citizens. The symposia were very effective in promoting philosophy. The attitude of the Athenians to gender and love was very special, which is evident from the reading. It is worth noting that homosexual and bisexual relationships were not only popular, but to some extent were considered as being higher than heterosexual ones. According to The Symposium, Zeus created the living beings in such a way so they could get pleasure from homoerotic relationships, nevertheless children could be born only in heterosexual relationships. Pausanias makes this point even more extreme by claiming that there are two types of love: Heavenly and Common. Common love is typical for people, who do not really care about their partner. Such people do not usually make any difference whether they love a male or a female. This kind of love is not true. Plato believed that only love between men is pure and divine.
Plato describes the idea of universals, some traits that could exist in different places at the same time. To put it simple, some properties of any object exist in a sort of ghostly mode, a form of existence, in which they cannot be seen or felt. According to Plato’s “Platonic Realism”, the space and time should be disregarded.
The idea is best described in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. He described men chained in the darkness of a cave. The only thing available to him is the false light of the fire behind his back. His world is made by the shadows he can see on the wall in front of him. He does not actually realize that there is something wrong with his life. This is all he knows. He later describes what could happen if these men would be suddenly let out into the real world. Plato implies what the light of the sun and true reality mean to the released prisoner from the cave. Some people would be surely frightened, and returning to the cave would be the only option, living in familiar darkness is much more comfortable. Only few most daring people would accept the sun light and see the true picture of the world. We all are just captives and our physical existence is the cave. And the things and events that we perceive are nothing but the shadows on the walls of our cave.
To sum it up, although some of the Plato’s ideas are doubtful, such as homosexual love in The Symposium, he is definitely one of those philosophers who shaped our understanding of virtue, education, wisdom, government and life itself.
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