Intro to Philosophy
We have chosen to write our essay on the ideas and reasoning (being vs. becoming) of Plato. (Essay #1) Virtue consists in the harmony of the human soul with the universe of ideas, which assure order, intelligence, and the pattern to a world in constant flux. The soul, on this view, has three parts, which correspond to three different kinds of interest, three kinds of virtues, and three kinds of personalities, depending on which part of the soul is dominant. This being the three kinds of social classes that should be based on the three personalities, interests, and virtuesshown below in a chart. This relates to the same ideas we discussed in class, the pyramid, based upon controlling self-esteem and upon those two controlling appetite. This leads us into the being vs. becoming state.
From this desire for wholeness comes the famous Platonic theory of ideas. The world about us is imperfect. It is constantly coming into being and going out of being. It seems impossible that anything, which really is, should be part of such a world. When we look at a beautiful girl, we cannot say that either of them is perfectly beautiful. Yet, there is something beautiful about them. What is it that makes them beautiful, so beautiful that it never can change? The wholly beautiful is the essence of Idea of what it is to be beautiful. It is Absolute Beauty. In the same way, things are true because the Idea of truth is present in them. A chair, (as we discussed in class) is a chair because it participates in the essence of chariness, which actually exists beyond the reach of the sensible world. Were there no ideas, there could be no world as we know it.
If we consider Plato’s ideas abstractions, we shall never grasp his meaning. But if we think of how a great artist sometimes manages to catch the vital meaning of an event on his canvas, we are coming closer to Plato’s theory. Take another example, how many of us have known someone for years when, suddenly, when one day something happens, and we see him for the first time as a “real person.” His personality has become alive and full of meaning in a way, which has nothing to do with his appearance or his attitude. Our two minds seem to look directly at one another. We feel we have a real contact with that person. Plato’s ideas are similar to this “something alive,” yet not a part of the sensible world, which we seem to see in our friend. Plato’s theory of knowledge follows from his concept of the Ideas. Since the ideas are eternal learning is but a process of recollection. Plato thought there was something different from our body that would outlive our human lives. He had such an experience of that something knowing in Socrates. As Socrates was sure, so was Plato sure that our minds were eternal. The sight of a sensible object recalls to our minds that moment in eternity when we “knew” the idea of that object. The sight of a horse recalls the idea of a horse, for instance. As Knowledge is recollection, so it is also purification. Plato thought we failed to grasp an idea because our minds were imprisoned in the shadow world of the senses. In one of his most beautiful myths Plato compares the process of knowing with the experience of a man who has lived all his life watching the shadows on the wall of his cave. One day, suddenly something urges him to turn toward the entrance of the cave. The sunlight shining through the entrance almost blinds him. Gradually he becomes accustomed to the light and makes his way out of the cave. Finally, he stands in pure sunlight. No longer is he living in the world of shadows. He sees things in their wholeness as they are actually known. Knowing is disciplining yourself to become accustomed to the pure light of the truth.