Archive for the ‘Plato’ Category
Generally for the ancient Greeks, to be a philosopher was to seek and obtain an all-inclusive knowledge. Thus the philosopher, as the Greeks understood it, sought to understand the whole of reality. The goal was to know reality in its basic structure, not in all its multifarious detail, for it was assumed that the details of one’s existence become intelligible when one understood them in relation to the whole. To use a metaphor from the building trade, the Greek philosopher was one who sought to understand the framework in relation to which all the details of existence were set. A house is the totality of its parts, but only when organized in a certain way, since a pile of building materials is not a house. It is the framer who gives the house its basic shape or structure; all the details of a house are set in relation to the framework. By analogy, for the ancient Greeks, philosophy was the attempt at understanding the framework of Being, the basic “shape or structure” of reality, in relation to which all the details of existence were set.
It is through Plato that we know Socrates, but Plato is no mere mouthpiece. All western philosophy has been described as ‘footnotes to Plato’. Like Socrates, he believed in the power of questioning as a method of teaching and most of his writing is in the form of ‘dialogue’. Indeed, his dialogues do not feature Plato himself. They illustrate by example his view that the learners must learn to think for themselves through dialogue. But he was a direct and detailed, and shockingly controversial, commentator in his utopian vision of education in The Republic, The Laws and other dialogues.