Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Group 1 shall post their group presentation contributions in the comments of this post!


  1. Our group chose the great philosopher, Plato, as our topic for this project, and I was tasked with covering his teachings/teaching methods and his students/followers. A large portion of Plato’s philosophies are seen through his writings. His Platonic Dialogues and The Republic are among the most popular. Though the Platonic Dialogues are a series of conversations between Socrates and the people Socrates questioned, many believe that some of Plato’s ideas are interspersed in these Platonic Dialogues, and Socrates is simply the character through which Plato voices his philosophies. The most notable idea that people believe is not Socrates’ but Plato’s is the idea that the world is not what it appears to be, the idea that appearance and reality differ from one another. Additionally, Plato believed that average people did not truly understand the world as it is; he believed only philosophers truly understood the world, a rather arrogant point of view in my opinion. This idea led to Plato’s famous cave story, which translates into the Theory of Forms, one of Plato’s most famous philosophies.
    However, not all of Plato’s students agreed with him on the Theory of Forms. Aristotle, Plato’s most famous student felt quite differently on the matter. Aristotle felt the best way to understand the world and the things in it was to embrace and examine the world around him. I see pros and cons to both Plato’s and Aristotle’s views concerning the Theory of Forms and examining the world. The Republic addresses a wide range of subjects to which Plato applies his philosophies. It even goes so far as to create and describe the perfect society, though most (me included) view his perfect society as anti-democratic and disturbing. The Symposium is another notable dialogue where Plato conveys his ideas, this time about erotic love. Plato examines varying views of erotic love through different characters, at points relating love back to his Theory of Forms.
    These are the most notable among many theories and philosophies that Plato shared at his school, The Academy. The Academy was founded by Plato in approximately 387 BC, and it was located in Athens. The “school” began very informally, often meeting on Plato’s personal property as often as the grounds that became known as the official Academy. Though the name implies a student-teacher type of learning style, there were no distinguishing titles of teacher or student. There were junior and senior members of the exclusive club, however. Most of the learning and sharing of ideas was done through conversational style learning, though there is evidence that few lectures did take place.
    Though there are aspects of Plato’s philosophies that I do not agree with, I can admire his pursuit of knowledge, his desire to understand the world, and his contribution to higher thought. Plato was a catalyst in philosophical thought. His questions and answers led others, such as Aristotle, to address the same questions and to form new answers and ask additional questions of their own, and it is this long line of questions and possible answers that make up philosophy and continue to provoke deep thought in minds, including my own.

  2. Plato’s Theory of forms was intended to answer the difficult question of how humans could possibly live a happy fulfilling life in a world where everything that causes their happiness can be taken away. He wanted to answer other questions that were asked by Socrates, such as what is virtue? It is also supposed to explain why our world can seem changing but also permanent at the same time. Plato solves this by dividing the world into a material, or visible, realm and a realm of forms, or an intelligible world. The material realm is experienced by our senses and seems to be constantly changing. The realm of forms can only be experienced in our minds and makes the existence of the visible (material) world possible. Plato believed that all things have a true being and the world we live in is a shadow of the real world. One reason he believes there must be an alternate world is because things are constantly changing, such as the cells in our body and the thoughts going through our heads. Plato’s idea of the real world was an unchanging world that contained the perfect forms of everything we see on earth.

    The only thing we have that does not change, according to Plato, is our soul, which was connected with the world of forms before it became part of a body. Our soul is the reason we can understand forms. The world of forms is a world for philosophers and is difficult to grasp for humans because we see things through our senses. He said that one form formed the many because there was no such thing as a perfect material object.

    A form in Plato’s sense is defined as an abstract property or quality.

    There are six properties of forms.
    1. Transcendent: Forms are neither located in space nor time. (Example: colors)

    2. Pure: Forms exemplify one property. Material objects are considered impure because a single object can exhibit multiple properties such as shape, color, density, etc. A form only exhibits one property, such as squareness.

    3. Archetypes: Forms are archetypes, or perfect examples of the property that they exhibit. Forms are perfect models that all material objects are based on. The form of blueness is blue, but any blue object is an impure copy of the form blue.

    4. Ultimately Real: Forms are ultimately real entities, they are not material objects. Material objects are copies of a collection of forms and their reality is established by the forms.

    5. Causes: Forms are the causes of all things because they provide an explanation of why any thing is the way it is, and they are the source of the being of all things.

    6. Systematically Interconnected: Forms comprise a system. This system leads down from the form of the Good and moves from general to particular, objective to subjective.

    Plato’s argument is that forms are more objective than actual material objects, and the more objective something is the more real it is.

  3. Anonymous11:33 PM CST

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  4. Anonymous11:34 PM CST

    My section of the report deals with Plato’s political philosophy, and in fact the very notion of ‘political philosophy’ was credited to him. Plato grew up during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, and as a result, politics were often on his mind. His philosophy of course influenced his concept of an ideal government, and he attempted to invent a sort of utopia, which he expressed in his dialogue the Republic. He wrote two other expressly political works: the Laws, and the Statesman. In his works, he discusses the connection from philosophy to law, politics, virtue, and justice, among other things. Though his ideas on the ideal government were not wildly popular, he was one of the first to attempt to moralize politics.

    In the Republic, Plato advocated a tripartite class structure. This three-fold idea correlates with his concept of the soul, which he thought was composed of three parts: appetite, spirit, and reason. In the dialogues, Socrates suggests the separation of classes into the Productive (workers), the Protective (warriors/guardians), and the Governing (rulers/philosopher kings). The Productive are the everyday workers, such as merchants, artists, or farmers. This class corresponds to the appetite piece of the soul. The Protective are the armies, composed of the brave and strong. This class connects with the spirit part of the soul. Finally, the Governing are the few intelligent, wise, and rational decision-makers, and they correspond to the reason part of the soul.

    Plato’s three-fold concept of society leant itself to an aristocratic government, or rule by the best (ie: Philosopher King). He believed an aristocracy would be ruled by reason and wisdom, and thus the best environment for everyone involved. Plato’s ideas differed vastly from the popular model of Athenian Democracy; instead of rhetoric and persuasion being the primary governors, Plato advocated reason and wisdom. To Plato, the Philosopher King was a rare person who loved truth and reason. He compared the exclusivity of the occupation with that of a doctor or a ship captain; not just anyone is qualified for the job.

    Next to aristocracy, Plato believed the next best form of government was timocracy, or rule by the honorable. This government is made up largely of warrior personalities; Sparta would be a historically relevant example. Next came the oligarchy, or rule by a few. Plato believed this kind of government was largely driven by wealth and that wealth translated to power. One of Plato’s least favorite types of government was democracy, the rule by the people, which he believed began initially with equal opportunity and freedom, but would quickly deteriorate into anarchy as the rich and poor clashed. Then, Plato believed, tyranny, or the rule of one, was born out of the chaos. A ‘hero’ would rise and organize society, but would do so with a private army and increased oppression. To Plato, however, it was better for a country to be ruled by a bad tyrant than by a bad democracy. His reasoning was that the former would mean only one person was responsible, while in the latter, everyone is responsible. While I do not necessarily agree with Plato in his political views, they are indeed fascinating to consider.

  5. Nick Watts1:08 PM CST

    My topic for our H1 Group 1 presentation on Plato will focus on Plato’s philosophical explanation for the formation of the natural world; drawing heavily from his dialogue, Timaeus. Keeping with his tradition of explaining his philosophical reasoning through dialogues with his former mentor Socrates; Plato describes the origin of the universe through the character named Timaeus. Following a brief description of the lost City-State of Atlantis by Critias, Timaeus begins to describe the origin story of the universe. According to this origin explanation, there is an Eternal and a Physical world. The Eternal world is bound by reason and is an example of immortal perfection. The Physical world, our world, is the antithesis; being made of all things changing and chaotic in nature. The Physical world is proposed by Timaeus to have been created by a Demiurge, or “god”, since every effect has a cause. This physical world of changes is based off of the Eternal world, often described as the mind of the Demiurge, thereby cementing the cosmological connection between the two.
    Timaeus then reveals that the Demiurge finds all things fair and beautiful to be intelligent and therefore the world is itself a living creature, and that it possesses a soul and an intelligence. Timaeus then goes on to advocate the philosophy of a single world instead of multiple due to the imperfection that permeates the physical world. The makeup of the universe is proportionate to the four elements of fire, earth, water, and air. Fire and earth to provide the visible and tangible properties and water and air give them form and harmony. Consequently the form of a globe was chosen by the Demiurge for its perfection and circular movement chosen for its uniformity. The universe does contain a soul interwoven into the fabric of reality through a specific proportion of the four elements.
    The explanation for man is curious, as it hearkens back to Hesiod’s gods of Greece. The Demiurge is said to have lesser ranking gods fashioned from the soul of the universe, each with their own specific role to play in the maintenance of it. In mankind’s construction, the Demiurge divvied out the correct amount of soul for each man and the lesser gods crafted them from the four elements; even going so far as to mimic the universe created by the Demiurge by including spherical shapes in the design. Naturally this means our bodies are present so that “Our heads do not role off and get stuck in ditches”. Timaeus continuously refers to something called the receptacle, or the spacial area where things change into one another; such a states of matter changing. Without this, a world of constant flux cannot exist. This unseen force is Plato’s only explanation for the actions of the Demiurge manifesting in the Physical world.
    Plato’s explanations for the universes origin has always struck me as surprisingly spot on for any era, let alone one so ancient. Some of these concepts: elemental blueprints based on proportion, an unseen receptacle for transformation, and the universe being a series of causes and events still serve as the foundation for much of our views of the world and how it works. This makes one wonder about how much of Plato’s philosophy exhibits relevance today? Obviously one cannot state that all of his ideals and theories are correct based on the intriguing similarity between his universe and the one commonly accepted by contemporary audiences, but one should maintain the relevance of Plato and his philosophy to modern ventures into the subject.

  6. Alden Wakefield2:37 AM CST

    My contribution to our group's report is the biography of Plato.

    There is very little information regarding Plato’s early life. He came from one of the most wealthy and political families in Athens. Because of this, he was provided a good education during which he modestly excelled; his family’s wealth ensured that he was taught grammar, music, gymnastics, and philosophy by renowned teachers of the period. Plato’s exact time and place of birth are unknown, but most scholars believe he was born in Athens or Aegina between 429 and 423 BC. There is mystery surrounding Plato’s birth name; historians are almost certain it was not Plato, but Aristocles, after his grandfather. However historic texts only show one Aristocles to have lived in Athens during that time. “Plato” was adopted later in his life, probably the result of a nickname given to him by a professor or his peers. It is certain, however, that he referred to himself as Plato, though its origins are unknown.
    Although Socrates is the most noted for his influence in Plato, the famous mathematician Pythagoras also contributed to Plato’s philosophical views. The platonic Republic takes after to community of like-minded thinkers created by Pythagoras on Croton. Another example exists in Plato’s scientific method of thinking. He believed that mathematics and abstract thinking were grounds for philosophical thinking as well as science and morals. Bertrand Russell said that the influence of Pythagoras on Plato was so great that he should be one of the most influential Western philosophers.
    Plato’s relationship with Socrates is one of the most notable aspects of his life. Although the two philosophers disagreed in some of their beliefs, Socrates undoubtedly influenced the development of Plato. Plato includes Socrates in many of his works, although many of these appearances are contested regarding their authenticity. It is unclear whether the Socrates about whom Plato writes is the historical figure or a fictitious creation made to embody his ideas. Regardless, it is clear that Plato greatly admired him in life and death; Plato was one of the men who offered money in exchange for the release of his mentor. In his dialogues, Plato never speaks in his own voice. Instead, he says that his writings are “those of a Socrates become beautiful and new.”
    Later in his life, Plato is said to have founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western Civilization, The Academy. It operated until its destruction in 84 BCE. Many intellectuals were instructed in this school, with Aristotle being one of the most famous. Plato also become involved with politics later in life. He began this in Syracuse, under the rule of Dionysus. Dionysus’ brother-in-law, Dion, became one of Plato’s disciples during this time, but Dionysus turned against Plato. Plato was almost executed, but was instead sold into slavery. Soon after, his freedom was bought and he returned home. Plato later returned to Syracuse in order to tutor Dionysus II to become a philosopher king under the suggestion of Dion. Plato’s death is disputed, but most sources say that he died in his sleep.